Policy implementation in wheelchair service delivery in a rural South African setting
CITATION: Visagie, S., Scheffler, E. & Schneider, M. 2013. Policy implementation in wheelchair service delivery in a rural South African setting. African Journal of Disability, 2(1): 1-9, doi: 10.4102/ajod.v2i1.63.
The original publication is available at http://www.ajod.org
Background: Wheelchairs allow users to realise basic human rights and improved quality of life. South African and international documents guide rehabilitation service delivery and thus the provision of wheelchairs. Evidence indicates that rehabilitation policy implementation gaps exist in rural South Africa. Objectives: The aim of this article was to explore the extent to which wheelchair service delivery in a rural, remote area of South Africa was aligned with the South African National Guidelines on Provision of Assistive Devices, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and The World Health Organization Guidelines on Provision of Wheelchairs in Less-Resourced Settings. Method: Qualitative methods were used. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 22 participants who were identified through purposive sampling. Content analysis of data was preformed around the construct of wheelchair service delivery. Results: Study findings identified gaps between the guiding documents and wheelchair service delivery. Areas where gaps were identified included service aspects such as referral, assessment, prescription, user and provider training, follow up, maintenance and repair as well as management aspects such as staff support, budget and monitoring. Positive findings related to individual assessments, enthusiastic and caring staff and the provision of wheelchairs at no cost. Conclusion: The gaps in policy implementation can have a negative impact on users and the service provider. Inappropriate or no wheelchairs limit user function, participation and quality of life. In addition, an inappropriate wheelchair will have a shorter lifespan, requiring frequent repairs and replacements with cost implications for the service provider.