Resuscitating an ethical climate in the health system: The role of healthcare workers

Prinitha Pillay


South Africa boasts a proud tradition of healthcare professionals speaking out against injustice in line with the medical doctrine of beneficence (to do good) and maleficence (do no harm). There are many who play a part in making the health system better, including the state, managers, patients and healthcare workers (HCWs). This article looks at the role of HCWs beyond providing medical care to individual patients. HCWs often face a lack of resources enabling them to adequately provide care and treatment and respond to life-threatening emergencies. As a result, they are forced to make difficult decisions when it comes to allocating those scarce resources. These decisions are not purely fiscal in nature, but also ethical. Deciding who to bump off a theatre list because there is no linen is a choice most HCWs did not imagine they would ever have to make. In order to circumvent a sense of hopelessness, HCWs need to empower and motivate themselves (and others) with knowledge of how to make things better.

Author's affiliations

Prinitha Pillay, Rural Health Advocacy Project, South Africa

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Ethics; Rural health; Public health

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(4):277-278. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.9397

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-01-20
Date published: 2015-02-27

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