Clinics and home-based care organisations: an interface between theformal and informal health sectors


The article outlines the findings of a study designed to explore the working relationship between home-based caregivers and clinic nurses at locations in two informal settlements in Johannesburg, South Africa. By considering the views and experiences of both sponsored and unsponsored caregivers, the research focused on how degrees of informality affect this relationship. The nurse/caregiver relationship represents a primary interface between the formal and informal health sectors and is an important part of the country's primary healthcare system. Despite the attention given to linking home-based care (HBC) with the formal health system, very little research has examined the functionality of this link at the ground level. Through a number of qualitative, semi-structured interviews with nurses, home-based caregivers, and staff from the Department of Health, information was collected to better understand what systems are in place to facilitate the relationship between clinics and HBC organisations, and whether these systems are helping to create the desired results. Do the formal and informal health sectors complement and strengthen or do they distract and damage each other? By examining the influence of degrees of informality, the research also lends insight into how this distinction plays a role in healthcare provision. For instance, how does state support impact the link between the formal and informal health sectors and the ultimate quality of care? And what steps can be taken to improve the health system in this regard, as a whole? The findings point to a number of problems and challenges with integrating HBC into the formal health sector. Degrees of informality are found to have a profound impact on the work of home-based caregivers in some respects, but a surprising lack of impact in others. These issues need to be confronted in order to improve the existing system and, ultimately, health outcomes in South Africa.

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