Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Authentic Leadership as a Source of Optimism, Trust in the Organisation and Work Engagement in the Public Health Care Sector

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Authentic Leadership as a Source of Optimism, Trust in the Organisation and Work Engagement in the Public Health Care Sector

Article excerpt

Introduction

In a significant strategic mission statement, the Department of Health (2011) in South Africa recently articulated a renewed focus on effective leadership as a vocal point of a government function that fulfils a critical role in the country's development. The Health Systems Trust (2013) describes the public health care sector as a major pillar in the country's democratic societal foundation. The provision of basic health care services is a crucial part of a prospering and flourishing society and provides one of the fundamental prerequisites for a civilisation in which equity prevails (Harrison, 2009). In South Africa, access to primary health care is a fundamental human right. This being said, the public health care sector has been plagued by a number of very pressing challenges. These include difficulty in implementing institutional policies that direct the public health care sector (Pillay, 2009), lack of and ill distribution of resources (Christian & Crisp, 2012), a national disease burden that is estimated to be four times worse than in developed countries (Department of Health, 2011) and a workforce that is continuously migrating to the private health care sector where perceived resources and working environment are considered more favourable (Ashmore, 2013).

In the National Department of Health (2013) annual report, the minister outlines that glaring differences still exist between the public and private health care sectors, specifically in access and quality of care, and states that this is convoluted by the country's disease affliction (particularly through HIV and/ or AIDS and TB), child and maternal morbidity, lifestyles of certain communities and high occurrence of trauma-related incidents across the entire country and particularly in areas where private health care is not affordable to people. The burden on the South African public health care sector is significant. Of the entire population, 83% of people receive all medical care in this domain (Blecher, Kollipara, DeJager & Zulu, 2011). Because basic primary health care in the public sector is available at no charge, very little funding outside of government budget is available to amply equip the sector with resources (Sanders & Chopra, 2006). The demand for public health care services has also been immense and continues to significantly surpass supply. For example, according to the Health Systems Trust (2011), in the public health care sector, only 2.2 usable beds are available per 1000 members of the population.

This highly complex and severely pressured sector, where a lack of resources and highly overburdening demand for services have been prevalent, has clearly manifested in the form of symptoms amongst its entire workforce. George, Atujuna and Gow (2013), for example, state that employees in the public health care sector have felt totally overwhelmed by the enormity of the task facing them on a daily basis and have negatively related to the pressures delivered through a large portion of the population who are in need of quality health care but cannot afford private care. Von Holdt and Murphy (2006) comment that public health care workers in South Africa experience severe stress and have reported total exhaustion. Drastic measures are required to equip public health care workers to effectively deal with a highly challenging work environment, to uphold levels of wellbeing amongst these individuals and to counter the high rate of turnover of these employees who are leaving the sector due to an environment that becomes too overburdening (George, Gow & Bachoo, 2013).

The need for these measures has been recognised by the Department of Health, who have introduced the National Core Standards for Health Establishments in South Africa (Department of Health, 2011), in which it adopts 'leadership' (domain 5) very purposefully as a critical component of its overarching strategy to navigate the challenges of public health care and provide for a healthy workforce who are able to be actively engaged and effective within this environment. …

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