Collaboration with and integration of African traditional healers into the South African health care system.
Gandugade, Pradnya V.
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The use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM) is widespread in many countries of the world, specifically amongst patients with chronic or long term illnesses. Research has found that allopathic medical doctors in rural areas regularly encounter patients who visit traditional doctors initially before presenting themselves to allopathic-medical doctors. The degree of interaction between TCAM and allopathic modalities in the effective treatment of patients visiting both allopathic practitioners and Traditional health practitioners (THPs) are unknown. This poses a major challenge in effectively managing patients. Therefore, a good collaborative relationship between these two different health practitioners and healthcare systems is needed to optimally treat patients. However, THPs have not shown great enthusiasm to collaborate with Western medicine. The reasons for this and if there are any barriers that prevent THPs from actually getting into western system has not been explored. It is commonly known that, doctors from Western medicine always disagree in terms of quality, efficacy and safety of drugs used by THPs hence their scepticism about THPs. This study therefore aimed at unpacking the reasons and barriers that THPs forward as to why they do not want to be incorporated into the mainstream health care system. A descriptive cross-sectional study was carried out with traditional health practitioners (THPs) working in the eThekwini Metro & surrounding areas, of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Interviews were carried out with traditional health practitioners (THPs) using a structured coded questionnaire. The questionnaire and interviews were administered by interviewers in the language of the THPs (Zulu and English). All responses were recorded in the data sheets. Confidentiality of data was maintained at all times and the THPs remained anonymous. The collected data was entered onto excel sheet and exported onto SPSS and analysed using the SPSS statistical programme for window, version 22. The data was presented in frequency distribution tables. Categorical variables are presented as bar graphs. A total of 171 traditional health practitioners were interviewed. Seventy-six percent of THPs (130/171) reported willingness to collaborate with allopathic medical practitioners. The majority of the THPs (83.6 % [143/171]) thought that western medical practitioners and THPs could work together, whilst 81.3 % (139/171) of the THPs perceived that collaboration between allopathic medical practitioners and THPs would be beneficial for patients. Sixty-eight per cent of THPs (117/171) indicated willingness to work side by side with allopathic medical practitioners in clinics. However, 72% (124/171) of the THPs reported that if THPs worked with allopathic medical practitioners, then THPs would lose their identity and if THPs and allopathic medical practitioners worked in the same place 76 % (130/171) then THPs felt that allopathic medical practitioners would steal their knowledge. Over 87% (149/171) of THPs indicated a willingness to learn allopathic medicine. This study found that traditional healers were willing to collaborate with western doctors as they felt that this collaboration would be beneficial for patients in South Africa. However, there was concern that the collaboration may lead to THPs losing their identity and the possibility of their knowledge being taken away by allopathic medical practitioners.