Ferrinho 1998 How Why Public Sector Doctors Engage Private Practice

Title How and Why Public Sector Doctors Engage in Private Practice in Portuguese-speaking African Countries
Format Publication
Authors Ferrinho, P., Van Lerberghe, W., Julien, M.R., Fresta, E., Gomes, A., Dias, F., Gonçalves, A., Bäckström, B.
Journal  Name (if applicable) Health Policy and Planing
Date Published 1998
Open Access Y/N Yes
Hard copy PDF Available Y/N Yes
Link http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/heapol/13.3.332
Abstract OBJECTIVE:
To explore the type of private practice supplementary income-generating activities of public sector doctors in the Portuguese-speaking African countries, and also to discover the motivations and the reasons why doctors have not made a complete move out of public service.
DESIGN:
Cross-sectional qualitative survey.
SUBJECTS:
In 1996, 28 Angolan doctors, 26 from Guinea-Bissau, 11 from Mozambique and three from S Tomé and Principe answered a self-administered questionnaire.
RESULTS:
All doctors, except one unemployed, were government employees. Forty-three of the 68 doctors that answered the questionnaire reported an income-generating activity other than the one reported as principal. Of all the activities mentioned, the ones of major economic importance were: public sector medical care, private medical care, commercial activities, agricultural activities and university teaching. The two outstanding reasons why they engage in their various side-activities are 'to meet the cost of living' and 'to support the extended family'. Public sector salaries are supplemented by private practice. Interviewees estimated the time a family could survive on their public sector salary at seven days (median value). The public sector salary still provides most of the interviewees income (median 55%) for the rural doctors, but has become marginal for those in the urban areas (median 10%). For the latter, private practice has become of paramount importance (median 65%). For 26 respondents, the median equivalent of one month's public sector salary could be generated by seven hours of private practice. Nevertheless, being a civil servant was important in terms of job security, and credibility as a doctor. The social contacts and public service gave access to power centres and resources, through which other coping strategies could be developed. The expectations regarding the professional future and regarding the health systems future were related mostly to health personnel issues.
CONCLUSION:
The variable response rate per question reflects some resistance to discuss some of the issues, particularly those related to income. Nevertheless, these studies may provide an indication of what is happening in professional medical circles in response to the inability of the public sector to sustain a credible system of health care delivery. There can be no doubt that for these doctors the notion of a doctor as a full-time civil-servant is a thing of the past. Switching between public and private is now a fact of life.