The crisis in human resources for health care and the potential of a ‘retired’workforce: case study of the independent midwifery sector in Tanzania

Type Journal Article - Health Policy and Planning
Title The crisis in human resources for health care and the potential of a ‘retired’workforce: case study of the independent midwifery sector in Tanzania
Volume 23
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
Page numbers 137-149
The human resource crisis in health care is an important obstacle to attainment of the health-related targets for the Millennium Development Goals. One suggested strategy to alleviate the strain upon government services is to encourage new forms of non-government provision. Detail on implementation and consequences is often lacking, however. This article examines one new element of non-government provision in Tanzania: small-scale independent midwifery practices. A multiple case study analysis over nine districts explored their characteristics, and the drivers and inhibitors acting upon their development since permitted by legislative change.
Private midwifery practices were found concentrated in a ‘new’ workforce of ‘later life entrepreneurs’: retired, or approaching retirement, government-employed nursing officers. Provision was entirely facility-based due to regulatory requirements, with approximately 60 ‘maternity homes’ located mainly in rural or peri-urban areas. Motivational drivers included fear of poverty, desire to maintain professional status, and an ethos of community service. However, inhibitors to success were multiple. Start-up loans were scarce, business training lacking and registration processes bureaucratic. Cost of set-up and maintenance were prohibitively high, registration required levels of construction and equipping similar to government sector dispensaries. Communities were reluctant to pay for services that they expected from government. Thus, despite offering a quality of basic maternity care comparable to that in government facilities, often in poorly-served areas, most private maternity homes were under-utilized and struggling for sustainability.
Because of their location and emphasis on personalized care, small-scale independent practices run by retired midwives could potentially increase rates of skilled attendance at delivery at peripheral level. The model also extends the working life of members of a professional group at a time of shortage. However, the potential remains unrealized. Successful multiplication of this model in resource-poor communities requires more than just deregulation of private ownership. Prohibitive start-up expenses need to be reduced by less emphasis on facility-based provision. On-going financing arrangements such as micro-credit, contracting, vouchers and franchising models require consideration.

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