BACKGROUND: Guinea undertook health workforce reform in 2016 following the Ebola outbreak to overcome decades-long shortages and maldistribution of healthcare workers (HCWs). Specifically, over 5000 HCWs were recruited and deployed to rural health districts and with a signed 5-year commitment for rural medical practice. Governance structures were also established to improve the supervision of these HCWs. This study assessed the effects of this programme on local health systems and its influence on HCWs turnover in rural Guinea.
METHODS: An exploratory study design using a mixed-method approach was conducted in five rural health districts. Data were collected through semi-structured questionnaires, in-depth interview guides, and documentary reviews.
RESULTS: Of the 611 HCWs officially deployed to the selected districts, 600 (98%) took up duties. Female HCWs (64%), assistant nurses (39%), nurses (26%), and medical doctors (20%) represented the majority. Findings showed that 69% of HCWs were posted in health centres and the remaining in district hospitals and the health office (directorate); the majority of which were medical doctors, nurses, and midwives. The deployment has reportedly enhanced quality and timely data reporting. However, challenges were faced by local health authorities in the posting of HCWs including the unfamiliarity of some with primary healthcare delivery, collaboration conflicts between HCWs, and high feminization of the recruitment. One year after their deployment, 31% of the HCWs were absent from their posts. This included 59% nurses, 29% medical doctors, and 11% midwives. The main reasons for absenteeism were unknown (51%), continuing training (12%), illness (10%), and maternity leave (9%). Findings showed a confusion of roles and responsibilities between national and local actors in the management of HCWs, which was accentuated by a lack of policy documents.
CONCLUSION: The post-Ebola healthcare workers policy appears to have been successfully positive in the redistribution of HCWs, quality improvement of staffing levels in peripheral healthcare facilities, and enhancement of district health office capacities. However, greater attention should be given to the development of policy guidance documents with the full participation of all actors and a clear distinction of their roles and responsibilities for improved implementation and efficacy of this programme.