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Table 5 Improving absenteeism rates

From: Using an action learning methodology to develop skills of health managers: experiences from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Participant: I have (had) a problem of absenteeism and eh…
Interviewer: People just not coming to their shifts? Coming to work?
Participant: Yes
Interviewer: Is that what you mean by absenteeism?
Participant: People were not coming to work, they will produce sick notes
Interviewer: Ok
Participant: Yes you find that someone has been absent from work for 8 days in a month, eh others would have (a) pattern of absenteeism. You find that if she’s working during this weekend she won’t come, then the following weekend she will be off. The next one she’s supposed to come, she won’t come again and she will end up being away for all the weekends in a month. Now in that way, the workload became more for those that are still working, coming to work. Now we had to assess this, sit down, and talk to my Assistant Manager about it. We tried to talk to the staff but it was not that helpful. By coming here (to action learning)…we discussed the problem with eh our facilitator
Interviewer: Carry on
Participant: Uh I was empowered because I had to go back[to work] and review, talk to the staff and we also looked at the doctors that were booking these people [off sick] and we realised that mostly it was the sessional doctors because they do not go to the HOS where they can be seen within the hospital
Interviewer: What is the HOS?
Participant: It’s the…OHS-Occupational Health Services
Interviewer: Oh ok
Participant: They don’t utilise that one, they go outside, then the sessional doctors will book them off. Now we were so troubled that we didn’t know how to…we tried to talk to the people but people…will continue absenting themselves until we decided to refer them to the EAP
Interviewer: What’s that?
Participant: EAP is the Employee Assistance Programme by the Employee Assistance Practitioner. We referred them there, they started to…initially they refused to go there, but because there is a form that you have to fill if you are not willing to see (the) EAP. I told them “if you are not willing, you are free not to go there but you must just sign for me that you are not interested in seeing the EAP”. Then they ended up attending EAP
Interviewer: Ok
Participant: Where they got counselling and all…had to explain what is meant by absenteeism and how…it affect(s) the quality of work; being away from work when you are expected to be there. I saw a great, great improvement after they’ve been to the EAP, eh people are coming to work now though there are those few but the majority is doing so well up to now
Interviewer: And did action learning give you the idea to do that?
Participant: The EAP, in fact the EAP is there in the hospital but it was the idea from this side (action learning group), “Have you seen the labour relations? Have you tried the EAP?” Then I said “no I didn’t” then I was empowered that you better (do that), because you have tried, you have counselled people…maybe refer them to a higher level of counselling then I refer(red) them and now the situation is much, much better
(Group 6, Rural District, Operational Manager, Interview 2)