allAfrica.com (08.05.03) - Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Preliminary findings of a recent study of South Africa's
health care system sketch a portrait of poor clinical
practice, inadequate sterilization facilities and a high
HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among young health care workers.
Commissioned by the Health Department and conducted by the
Human Sciences Research Council, the study surveyed 2,002
health care workers and 2,000 patients in more than 202
hospitals and clinics across South Africa. The survey data
were presented Monday at the South African AIDS Conference
2003 in Durban.
"Thirty percent [of the facilities surveyed] never stocked
sterilizing equipment and only 40 percent of professional
health care workers were trained in universal precautions,
[raising] the question of blood-borne infection in health care
facilities," said Dr. Olive Shisana, executive director of
HSRC's HIV/AIDS research programs.
Only 86 percent of health care workers had access to
protective gloves, and 56 percent had access to protective
gowns. Fifty-nine percent of the facilities never stocked HIV
testing kits. More than 16 percent of health care workers
surveyed were HIV-positive, with a higher proportion among
young workers; 20 percent of those ages 18-35 were HIV-
positive, compared with 16.6 percent of those ages 36-45.
"This has major implications for the future supply of health
care professionals," said Shisana. Based on the Statistics
South Africa finding that there were 375,670 AIDS-related
deaths in 2000, she said an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 health
care workers had died from the disease that year. The epidemic
is exacting a heavy psychological toll on health care workers,
with more than half saying that they were exhausted and 39
percent reporting low morale, Shisana said.