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Original Research

The experiences of dentists in the management planning of oral health services in Lesotho, Africa

Submitted: 7 April 2009
Revised: 6 August 2009
Published: 25 October 2009

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Author(s) : Umunna AO, James VS, Ricks EJ.

Anthony UmunnaValencia JamesEsmeralda Ricks

Citation: Umunna AO, James VS, Ricks EJ.  The experiences of dentists in the management planning of oral health services in Lesotho, Africa. Rural and Remote Health 9: 1213. (Online) 2009. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  Health sector reforms motivated by the need for efficiency, effectiveness and equity in the delivery of services have interested authorities in the planning competencies of managers, because planning sets the stage for the effective management of health systems. The huge public and private cost of oral health makes planning an important dimension for health authorities when considering the allocation of funds. Productivity in the oral health service sector is not often reported on, despite the cost involved in rendering oral health services. This study explores and describes the management planning experiences of oral health managers in the public sector in Lesotho, Africa, which consists of clinics in 10 districts serving hundreds of rural and remote mountainous communities.
Methods:  The study used a qualitative research design. Of the purposive sample of 14 public sector dentists then available, seven dentists (2 female and 5 male) met the criteria for participation (≥1 year of experience in district oral health planning), and consented to and were available for participation. Data were collected by in-depth, one-on-one interviews with 6 participants, and textual data were collected from the seventh. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Data were organised and analysed using the Tesch method, with themed topics coded and categorised by a researcher and an independent coder for analysis.
Results:  One major theme emerged (the management planning of oral health services were experienced as inefficient) and four sub-themes: (1) the need to plan carefully to provide efficient clinical services; (2) constraints to promoting expansion of community based dental services; (3) a breakdown in communication hampered service delivery; and (4) internal and external stakeholder issues impacted strongly on management planning.
Conclusion:  The inefficiency (failure of the community to derive maximum curative, preventive and rehabilitative benefits from public expenditure on oral health in Lesotho), as described by participants, arose from factors that impair careful planning; constrained the expansion of community based oral health services; caused a breakdown in communication between dentists and their authorities leading to poor services delivery; and was impacted strongly by internal and external stakeholder issues.

Key words:  health reform, management planning, oral health care.

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