Africa Health Placements
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Africa Health Placements (AHP) is a South African-based social profit organisation working to address the extreme inequities in access to healthcare through human resource solutions. AHP currently offers culture strategy consulting, workforce planning, recruitment, retention and Human Resources for Health (HRH) systems advisory services. The organisation’s mission targets health access for the most indigent, partnering governments, civil society and the private sector to do so. AHP defines itself as social profit because its work, while mostly donor-funded, delivers a profit measured in terms of improved healthcare and social indicators.
Etymology and Origin
Africa Health Placements (AHP) is a descriptive title, which refers to the organisation's role as a recruiter of local and foreign health workers into southern Africa's public health sector. The organisation was originally formed in 2005 as a joint venture between the advocacy group, RHI (Rural Health Initiative) and the Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) – a private university focused on creating skills for the public health sector in southern Africa.
As of the 1st of April 2012, Africa Health Placements NPC was launched. This newly found independence ensures the improvement of governance structure through a board with legal and fiduciary responsibility that also represents executive management. Likewise, the new AHP will provide a vessel into which AHP can directly raise funds, set up policies, systems, processes that are specific to the operational and strategic direction of the company, as well as allow the organisation to further develop its own distinct and renowned culture. Furthermore, this move fulfils an obligation to The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of AHP’s largest donors, to set up an independent entity.
With 20% of the world’s population, sub-Saharan Africa languishes with only 2% of the world’s physicians. Attracting and retaining health workers and competent management is critical to solving the massive public health issues in this region. AHP aims to enhance the healthcare delivery system in Africa through the provision of human resource solutions and services. Recognising the value of relationships, we conduct our work through people networks that allow us to mobilise resources within Africa and across the world.
To support and enhance public healthcare systems in Africa through the provision of human resource solutions and services. These extend beyond the recruitment, placement and retention of management and staff, to include services directed toward building sustainability, such as consulting, information services, advocacy and marketing. Recognising the value of relationships, we conduct our work through people networks that allow us to mobilise resources within southern Africa and across the world.
Expertise and Services
Culture Strategy Consulting
AHP partners a culture strategy consultancy to deliver integrated talent management solutions to public and philanthropic clients. The basis of AHP’s approach is to improve performance and produce results by codifying institutional culture in a measurable way, and then embedding this in recruitment, onboarding and performance management systems. Management and their teams are integrally involved in the process of discovering institutional culture. In addition, all staff are socialised into integrated talent management systems and capacity to performance manage and lead through culture is built. This approach is applied across major multi‐national corporations as much as in government institutions ─ bringing global best practice to public service.
AHP offers workforce planning to help facilities and governments understand where health workers of a particular skill can make the greatest impact on health outcomes. This involves performing detailed facility assessments with a custom-designed tool. The data collected is analysed and interpreted through quantitative and qualitative models to inform rational recruitment, training and allocation decisions. AHP’s tools and models are versatile and can be adapted to the context in which they are being applied ─ across facility type, specialty area, and into community health settings. The outputs from the planning process are simple to use and easy to understand, allowing for the information to be incorporated into detailed HR plans or existing staffing norms ─ a process through which AHP’s skilled planning staff guide and build the capacity of health management teams.
In 2014, AHP completed capacity assessments for 499 facilities across South Africa, predominantly in rural areas. This included assessments at 363 primary healthcare clinics, 72 community health centres and 64 district hospitals in 12 districts across five provinces. These assessments are being used to inform the HR planning processes in these districts.
AHP sources, registers, matches, places and orientates managers, health workers and support staff for public health facilities. Candidates are recruited both locally and from abroad. The objective of this capability area is to ensure the sustainability of staffing through building the capacity of facility managers to recruit and orientate staff themselves and creating a core team, often comprising foreign-qualified doctors, that alleviates the pressures of a staffing crisis, allowing the facility to attract local skills and strengthen recruitment capacity.
AHP had placed 3 266 foreign-qualified and local health workers, managers and support staff since the organisation’s inception in 2005. In 2014, AHP made 336 placements in South Africa.
AHP offers a rational and measurable Retention Programme to improve the retention of scarce skills in nine districts and one sub-district out of South Africa’s 52 health districts. Retention is impacted by myriad factors. To target key points of leverage, AHP runs HRH Assist ─ a HR capacity building programme aimed at improving the retention of health workers. As part of this programme, AHP adapted a corporate retention survey with health workers in a district. In this way, AHP and management are able to assess which attributes of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) are weakest and resulting in the loss of skills. Custom-created capacity building initiatives are then run by AHP to improve management around the weakest EVP areas. AHP, partnering with a culture strategy consultancy, has designed 21 such initiatives around three key EVP attributes that were identified through the 2013 Retention Survey results as focus areas that needed to be addressed to improve retention. These focus areas are learning and development, communication, and leadership development. By repeating the retention survey, AHP can measure the extent to which initiatives have improved the EVP and, thus, the retention of key skills. In 2014, AHP hosted 277 capacity building sessions which were attended by 4 682 district and facility managers. The results of the 2014 Retention Survey show an improvement in the communication area with an increase in 0.4 in this score between 2013 and 2014. This speaks directly to AHP’s HRH Assist initiatives of which communication is a primary focus area. Work culture experienced a 0.5 increase between 2013 and 2014. Although there are no HRH Assist initiatives that focus on work culture, other areas – particularly improved communication – can contribute to an overall improvement in the perception of the work culture.
AHP also offers troubleshooting support to facilities around key retention issues and organises relevant Continued Professional Development (CPD) sessions for health workers to reduce professional and personal isolation. In 2014 AHP organised 147 such sessions.
HRH Systems Advisory Services
AHP’s wealth of knowledge and experience in providing human resource solutions and services enables the organisation to gather relevant data from a wide range of sources and translate this information into best practice models which are used to improve health policy and systems. Data gathering is enhanced through regular research conducted by AHP into issues which affect the retention of health workers in the public sector. Since 2009, AHP has conducted an annual survey of community service doctors and dentists to assess the primary goals of the programme relating to geographic distribution, professional development and retention. In 2014, the 2009 Community Service Survey results were published in an international journal, Human Resources for Health. The final national average response rate for the 2014 survey was 53%.
AHP is run by a team of recruiters, researchers and advocacy specialists situated in offices in South Africa, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. They communicate with hospital managers across South Africa and then market the opportunity to work in South Africa to health professionals around the world – largely via the web, specialist journals and conferences. A zero-fee placement service is delivered to all qualifying candidates. This includes the management of all necessary immigration administration, as required by the South African Department of Health and the Health Professions Council of South Africa. AHP's recruiters also facilitate the orientation of all health workers that are placed into rural health facilities.
AHP's management also conducts advocacy amongst civil society organisations, private companies and various government bodies, identifying systemic issues that are driving health professionals away from the region, and advising on how to address them.
- The Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP)
- The Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA)
- The Foundation for Professional Development (FPD)
- The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)