Document Type : Original Article
School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
South African Medical Research Council Health Services to Systems Unit, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Key to effective supportive supervision, and ultimately performance of community health workers (CHWs), is the nature of relationships in the formal health system at the coal face of programmes. The central character and defining feature of effective relationships, in turn, is the ability to engender trust. This study describes factors associated with workplace and interpersonal trust, the relationship between the two sets of trust factors and how this shaped perceived performance of CHWs in ward-based outreach teams (WBOTs) in a rural South African district.
In the context of a wider study of supportive supervision of CHWs, factors recognised to be associated with trust in the literature were studied qualitatively in Ngaka Modiri Molema district, North West Province. Focus group discussions (FGDs) and individual interviews were conducted by the first author with CHWs (23), team leaders (12), facility managers (10) and middle managers (5). Interviews were recorded, translated and transcribed. Perceptions of trust factors associated with workplace and interpersonal trust were analysed thematically.
The interviews revealed a climate of considerable workplace mistrust due to the perceived abandonment of the WBOTs programme by managers at all levels, and this affected support and supervision of WBOTs. However, there was a degree of variability and discretion in expressions of interpersonal trust at the coal face, leading to different perceptions of the competence and functionality of the WBOTs. Mistrust in the workplace and poor interpersonal relationships translated into low confidence in the ability of CHWs, which in turn compromised the performance of these teams.
The study contributes empirical evidence on how workplace trust factors impact on interpersonal trust factors and the possible implications of both sets of trust factors on perceived performance of CHWs. Wider trust in the health system have a significant bearing on interpersonal trust between CHWs and other players in the primary healthcare (PHC) system.