Original Research

The role of rehabilitation care workers in South African healthcare: A Q-methodological study

Shamila Gamiet, Michael Rowe
African Journal of Disability | Vol 8 | a537 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v8i0.537 | © 2019 Shamila Gamiet, Michael Rowe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 June 2018 | Published: 29 October 2019

About the author(s)

Shamila Gamiet, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Michael Rowe, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: The South African Department of Health identified the need to train a new cadre of community health worker (CHW) in the field of rehabilitation as part of their 2030 Health Plan that aims to improve primary healthcare (PHC) and community-based rehabilitation (CBR). Community health workers can be effectively utilised in CBR if their role is understood and their potential is not limited by professional protectionism and scepticism. A clear understanding of the scope of practice of a new cadre will minimise resistance by health professionals.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore rehabilitation health professionals’ perception of the role of the new cadre, called rehabilitation care workers (RCWs), in South African healthcare.

Methods: Q-methodology was used to gather and interpret the data. A convenient sample of 16 health professionals participated in the study. Participants ranked statements about the role of the RCWs from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Data were entered into PQMethod software program for statistical and factor analysis.

Results: Two factors emerged. Participants loading onto Factors 1 and 2 were of the opinion that RCWs’ role would be to strengthen PHC and CBR and to promote participation of people with disabilities (PWD) in intermediate care and community.

Conclusion: Rehabilitation health professionals’ positive perception of the new cadre is encouraging so that it could ensure their effective utilisation in CBR. Rehabilitation care workers were perceived as capable of enhancing the lives of PWD by ensuring inclusive development.


community; community-based rehabilitation; community health workers; intermediate care; participation; primary healthcare; South Africa


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