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Engelbrecht et al.: Prioritizing people and rapid learning in times of crisis: A virtual learning initiative to support health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Beth Engelbrecht, Lucy Gilson, Pierre Barker, Krish Vallabhjee, Gareth Kantor, Mike Budden, Anita Parbhoo, Uta Lehmann

The Western Cape province was the early epicentre of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic in South Africa and on the African continent. In this short article we report on an initiative set up within the provincial Department of Health early in the pandemic to facilitate collective learning and support for health workers and managers across the health system, emphasising the importance of leadership, systems resilience, nonhierarchical learning and connectedness. These strategies included regular and systematic engagement with organised labour, different ways of gauging and responding to staff morale, and daily ‘huddles’ for raid learning and responsive action. We propose three transformational actions that could deliver health systems that protect staff during good times and in times of system shocks. (a) Continuously invest in building the foundations of system resilience in good times, to draw on in an acute crisis situation. (b) Provide consistent leadership for an explicit commitment to supporting health workers through decisive action across the system. (c) Optimise available resources and partners, act on improvement ideas and obstacles. Build trusting relationships amongst and across actors. Read the full paper




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