Health Experts Table Primary Healthcare Re-Engineering
UKZN’s Family Medicine Discipline in collaboration with the KZN Department of Health (District Health Services) hosted the KwaZulu-Natal Community Orientated Primary Care (COPC) Indaba on primary healthcare re-engineering.
COPC is a systematic approach to healthcare based upon principles derived from epidemiology, primary care, preventive medicine, and health promotion.
‘It’s richness comes from the identification and understanding of the community to be served, characterising it, defining the health issues or concerns, developing and implementing interventions, and finally monitoring and evaluating the impact,’ said KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
The Indaba is aimed at provide a platform for actively engaging District and Primary Health Care managers in a process of grounding primary healthcare re-engineering in the communities they serve in the province.
Dhlomo told over 300 delegates in attendance that healthcare problems experienced at community level will not be resolved unless there is broad-based participation and engagement of relevant stakeholders.
The gathering shared experiences of excellence in the implementation of COPC, through presentations and group discussions by districts, PHC leaders, managers and community members.
The meeting also highlighted the importance of community based needs assessment. ‘This initiative comes at the appropriate time when the Department of Health is reviewing its planning approach and is shifting from programme-based to population-based planning,’ said Dholmo.
The Indaba also gave an opportunity to KZN Provincial, District and Primary Health Care managers to learn from healthcare providers who have demonstrated excellence in the implementation of COPC, locally and internationally. The district management teams and healthcare institutions had an opportunity to benchmark against a practical point of reference to guide their plan for sub-district and community-based healthcare services.
Speakers presented remarkable work being done in the implementation of COPC in the country and internationally. Delegates were also treated to insightful presentations by Dhlomo, UKZN Family Medicine HOD, Dr Bernhard Gaede, and Professor Tessa Marcus from the Department of Family Medicine at the the University of Pretoria.
Marcus and Gaede engaged healthcare workers in understanding the concept of COPC and encouraged them to facilitate community engagement on its implementation.
In 2013 the PHC Re-engineering Task Team indicated that: ‘the KZN Department of Health subscribes to the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care (PHC). The declaration led to the introduction of the District Health System that was said to be the vehicle to deliver health care services using the PHC approach and this is expressed in the National Health Act 61 of 2003 section 29, 30 and 31.’
Gaede said the revitalisation of the concept of COPC was central to both the University’s and DoH’s aim to support re-engineering PHC. COPC was developed in Pholela in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands by Dr Sydney and Emily Kark in the 1940s, through the introduction of projects that maximised population-based interventions with community involvement and linking clinical and population-based care. It also has significant historical relevance for UKZN as COPC formed a central part of the original curriculum of the Medical School when it was established in 1954. However, due to both political pressure and professional conservatism, the revolutionary ideals of such a curriculum were suppressed.
Words: Nombuso Dlamini