The experiences and challenges faced by rehabilitation community service therapists within the South African Primary Healthcare health system
CITATION: Ned, L., Cloete, L. & Mji, G. 2017. The experiences and challenges faced by rehabilitation community service therapists within the South African Primary Healthcare health system. African Journal of Disability, 6:1-11, doi:10.4102/ajod.v6i0.311.
The original publication is available at http://www.ajod.org
Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.
Background: Twenty-two years after the promulgation of a plethora of progressive health policies since 1994, the South African public health system reflects a number of stumbling blocks regarding implementation. Rehabilitation professionals are not sufficiently equipped nor allowed the opportunity to comprehensively implement Primary Healthcare (PHC) from a bottom-up approach, thus engaging communities. Training on addressing social health determinants and their impact on ill-health and health outcomes is inadequate. The inadequate understanding of the advocacy role that rehabilitation professionals could play in addressing social health determinants remains a challenge in healthcare. Rehabilitation, a pillar of PHC, remains poorly understood in terms of its role within the health system. Aim: We argue for rehabilitation as a vehicle for addressing social determinants of health with community service practitioners playing a critical role in addressing the inequities within the healthcare package. Setting: The article reflects the opportunities and challenges faced by rehabilitation community service therapists in the delivery of rehabilitation services in a rural area of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Methods: A single case study from the perspective of a researcher was used to explore the experience and reflection of the first author during her community service as an occupational therapist. Results: The case study highlights some existing gaps within the delivery of rehabilitation services in the rural Eastern Cape. A community service package with a specific approach towards addressing social determinants of health for persons with disability at a community level is suggested. Conclusion: Advocating for a rehabilitation service package to shift to community-based levels is critical. It is envisaged that a community-based approach will facilitate an understanding of the barriers faced by persons with disabilities as constituting disability, thus facilitating learning about the disabling consequences of the rural environment coupled with the system as experienced by persons with disabilities.