A review of South African Public Healthcare policies addressing Service Delivery for wheelchairs through a Primary Health Care lens

June Mcintyre, Kathlyn Elena Cleland, Serela Samita Ramklass


Introduction: In some areas of South Africa, people with impaired mobility are known to have difficulty accessing wheelchairs. This study aimed to critically appraise public healthcare policies addressing service delivery in terms of assistive devices in general, and more specifically wheelchairs within primary health care.

Method: South African public healthcare policies that address assistive device service delivery were identified and thematically analysed using retrospective deductive document analysis. The themes used correspond to the WHO guidelines for the provision of wheelchairs within the context of the guiding principles of primary health care i.e., accessibly, affordability, acceptability, appropriateness, and availability. An analysis was undertaken on how the provision of assistive devices under these principles was addressed.

Results: Three policies were identified addressing assistive device service delivery i.e. The National Rehabilitation Policy, The Policy Framework and Strategy for Disability and Rehabilitation Services in South Africa 2015 – 2020, and the National Health Insurance Policy. The National Rehabilitation Policy addressed the majority of the WHO guiding principles on wheelchair provision. Guidelines for non-discriminatory and evidence-based service delivery and the availability of assistive devices were identified in all the documents. Scant attention was paid to service delivery of assistive devices for people residing in urban or peri-urban areas. There was a paucity of

guidance on service delivery to people with impaired mobility who were unable to access health services, those unaware of the services available and those who were not aware of the benefits of an assistive device.

Conclusion: The policies, viewed together, addressed all the WHO guiding principles, although some gaps were observed in each policy. A proposal emanating from this review was that an update of the National Rehabilitation Policy would address these deficiencies.


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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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