Training Health Professionals: South Africa National Department of Health and I-TECH Host Conference

February 7, 2011

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This month, I-TECH South Africa, in conjunction with the National Department of Health’s Human Resource Department (NDoH-HRD) planned, implemented and sponsored the second Regional Training Centres [RTCs] Best Practice Sharing Conference in Benoni, South Africa.

From 1-3 February, over 150 participants spent three days in intense discussion of challenges, lessons learned, and best practices in the training of health professionals.  Discussion also focused on how the regional training centres can use resources and expertise to more directly support district level work. The conference targeted HPQA Centre and RTC managers and trainers, national and provincial departments of health, universities, and international developmental partners.

Deputy Director General Dr. Percy Mahlathi provided the opening remarks on behalf of the National Department of Health. In his statement he emphasized the importance of quality training as well as an integrated approach to primary care in the context of HIV and TB funding and support. He also emphasized the importance and role of the government health care worker, particularly the nurse, as a primary caregiver in governmental facilities that are initiating HIV treatment.

Mr. Jack Jourden, I-TECH South Africa Country Director, provided opening remarks that emphasized the need for innovative approaches to health systems. Citing a recent article in the Lancet, “Health Professionals for a New Century: Transforming Education to Strengthen Health Systems in an Interdependent World,” he enjoined the audience to reconsider their role in strengthening training systems. Quoting from the paper, Jourden reiterated that “professional educators are key players [in systems improvement] since change will not be possible without their leadership and ownership.”

Dr. Eric Buch, Dean and Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pretoria, delivered the keynote address. He suggested that the high quality of training provided to practitioners and the “best practices” promulgated by the regional training centers are at the frontlines of effective health systems strengthening.

Among other presentations, discussions of I-TECH’s web-based Training System Monitoring and Reporting Tool (TrainSMART) software, and I-TECH’s e-library (a resource for health care workers), garnered rave reviews and strong interest. Partners also recognized I-TECH’s work as a national training partner. NDoH was clear that it would like I-TECH South Africa, and the work it has done in partnership with Mpumalanga province, to set the stage for standardizing training for, and integration of, primary care as a national effort.

I-TECH South Africa’s work in building the capacity of RTCs and health system strengthening in the county was endorsed by the RTCs, NDoH and the conference participants in general.

The specific objectives of the conference were to

  • Define and describe the management of in-service training within the re-engineered Public Health Clinic (PHC) system.
  • Define high quality PHC services provided for integrated support of the health care workforce by the RTCs and program managers.
  • Provide health system strengthening through the alignment of health training programs with changing health demographics.
  • Provide sufficient and appropriate resources to the RTC’s in order for them to have well managed, coordinated and sustainable training programs.
  • Describe a national training monitoring and evaluation system for accurate data collection to assess needs, define training, and implement resources.

Learn more about I-TECH South Africa.

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