Return to Work following Ill Health or Disability in a Public-Private Health Care Facility: A Study in South Africa

  •  Rubendri Govender    
  •  Deshini Naidoo    
  •  Pragashnie Govender    


INTRODUCTION: Disability management involves is dynamic interactional strategies used to promote an individual’s return to work. These strategies revolve around the person’s health condition and contextual factors for example their employer and the work environment. However, there remains limited literature on the strategies used in the public healthcare sector. Objective: To explore the return to work strategies used at a public sector facility in the province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

METHOD: A case study design, with multiple sources of data contributed towards profiling disability management strategies implemented at a central quaternary health care facility. Data collection methods included a file audit, work ability index assessments and semi-structured interviews with employees. Saturation sampling was used to recruit n = 23 employees who had been referred for occupational therapy vocational assessments over a period of 10 years. Data from the file audit were analysed using descriptive statistics and interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Fifty six percent (n = 38) of the participants that were currently employed at the institution scored between 28 and 38 (moderate) on the Work Ability Index and required job realignments and reasonable accommodations within their current vocations. Twenty two percent (n = 5) scored 7–9 (poor) and were medically boarded or on long-term incapacity leave.

CONCLUSIONS: Occupational therapists play a significant role in disability management within public health care facilities. Return to work strategies and reasonable accommodations can improve productivity in the workplace.

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