Original Research

Lived experiences of South African rehabilitation practitioners during coronavirus disease 2019

Sadna Balton, Mershen Pillay, Rizqa Armien, Annika L. Vallabhjee, Elani Muller, Mark J. Heywood, Jeannie van der Linde
African Journal of Disability | Vol 13 | a1229 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v13i0.1229 | © 2024 Sadna Balton, Mershen Pillay, Rizqa Armien, Annika L. Vallabhjee, Elani Muller, Mark J. Heywood, Jeannie van der Linde | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 April 2023 | Published: 12 January 2024

About the author(s)

Sadna Balton, Department of Speech Therapy and Audiology, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Soweto, South Africa
Mershen Pillay, Department of Speech, Language Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville, South Africa; and Department of Speech, Language Therapy, Institute of Education, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Rizqa Armien, Department of Occupational Therapy, Symphony Way Community Day Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
Annika L. Vallabhjee, DeDepartment of Speech Therapy and Audiology, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Soweto, South Africa
Elani Muller, Effective Care Research Unit, East London, South Africa
Mark J. Heywood, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Jeannie van der Linde, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Background: In South Africa, the sharp rise in people with severe illness because of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in early 2020, meant that health systems needed to adapt services and operations, including rehabilitation services. Important insights into the lived experiences of rehabilitation personnel enacting these adaptations in an African context are limited.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore the lived experiences of rehabilitation practitioners working in the public sector in South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Method: A phenomenological approach and a duo-ethnographic design were used. A recruitment letter was circulated requesting volunteers. Maximum variation sampling was used to select the 12 participants of this study. Data were collected through interviews via Zoom, and critical conversations were facilitated by a non-rehabilitation partner who is known for challenging health inequities. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed through elements of qualitative content and thematic analysis. Data were coded, categorised, clustered into concepts and formulated into themes.

Results: Three themes were identified: (1) ‘Management became the enemy’, (2) ‘Tired of being resilient’ and (3) ‘Think out of the box…think on our feet’.

Conclusion: The results of this study highlighted new ways of practice, innovative adaptations, and usage of resources and platforms.

Contribution: This study highlights the re-imagining of accessible rehabilitation services that could lead to deeper onto-epistemological shifts amongst the rehabilitation practitioners.


Keywords

COVID-19; lived experiences; rehabilitation practitioners; mental health; innovation; leadership South Africa.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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