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Health Systems Need More Health Workers, Better Management

Human resources: it’s a two-word phrase that can induce both yawns and rapid browser-closing for employees worldwide. But human resources, specifically human resources management (or HRM), goes far beyond hiring, firing, and workplace discipline. In fact, when it comes to global health, a well-functioning HRM system can mean life or death.

Too often, health workers are unsupported and overworked.

Health systems worldwide need managers who are not only effective leaders, but have experience with recruiting, deploying, and retaining employees, and helping them perform their best. Too often, health workers are unsupported, overworked, and only have access to limited resources. A strong HRM system can help mitigate the low motivation, absenteeism, and substandard quality of care that many low- and middle-income countries are dealing with.

So what does HRM strengthening look like in practice?In the Dominican Republic, it means saving over $9 million by cleaning hospital payrolls and eliminating ghost workers, or individuals who receive salaries but no longer work for the ministry. After IntraHealth International and the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Health worked through this process, the savings then went to hiring new doctors, nurses, and area coordinators to expand access to primary health care services in the country. Some of the poorest regions saw 500% increases or more in client consultations in one year.

And in Uganda, improving HRM means addressing the critical shortage of health workers through strong advocacy and targeted investments. In just two short years, IntraHealth worked with the Ministry of Health as it hired over 7,200 new health workers, provided over 300 scholarships for students in hard-to-reach districts, and reduced absenteeism through a new, computerized tracking tool. The country’s efforts to ramp up its health workforce are already expanding HIV services and improving access to care.

Through building capacity at the local and national levels, IntraHealth helps countries equip their health workers with the skills and support they need to perform well and deliver high-quality health services. Health authorities worldwide are gaining skills and capacity in leadership and management, gathering and analyzing workforce data, and tools for motivating health workers to reach their peak performance levels.

By working hard to strengthen the systems that manage the health workforce, we can make a commitment to ensure that all health workers are present, ready, connected, and safe, so they can continue saving lives and helping their communities thrive.