HOW DO POLICY DOCUMENTS RELEVANT TO REFUGEES ADDRESS ISSUES RELATING TO REFUGEE’S ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE SERVICES IN SOUTH AFRICA?
AbstractBackground: There is very limited literature on the provisions contained in policies relevant to refugees who seek health care services in South Africa. Yet, the need to understand how policy can influence access to healthcare services for refugees is widely acknowledged.Purpose: This study was conducted in order to examine ways in which policy documents relevant to refugees address issues relating to refugees’ access to health care services.Methods: Data for this study was derived from a review of policy documents relevant to refugees and discussions with relevant stakeholders. Six provisions were identified that relate to the facilitation of health care access among refugees. Twelve (n=12) relevant policy documents that met our inclusion criteria were analysed in terms of the six provisions and particularly how it was framed.Findings: The six provisions pertain to refugees’ rights and access to healthcare services, free access to ART, access to mental health, screening upon arrival and provision of interpreters at public healthcare facilities. The findings suggest that policy documents have not adequately addressed issues relating to refugees’ access to health care services in South Africa. Of the 12 relevant policy documents selected, only seven had one or two of the six provisions; the other five made no provision for refugees in South Africa. In addition, most of the policy documents that address the issue of health care access for refugees are international documents. Only four policy documents developed in South Africa contained one or two of the six provisions.Conclusion: Health policy makers should pay attention to the issues of refugee health within government’s limited financial and human resource capacity as it has important health ramifications for the citizens and the country at large. Further, government and policy makers should also promote access to resources to support health facility management and create greater awareness of national health policies among practitioners and refugees.
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