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S Afr Med J. 1997 Mar;87(3):305-9.

Staff knowledge, attitudes and practices in public sector primary care of diabetes in Cape Town.

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  • 1Centre for Epidemiological Research in South Africa, South African Medical Research Council, Parowvallei, W. Cape.



To audit staff knowledge, attitudes and practices in the interest of improved public sector primary care for diabetics.


External audit using face-to-face, private, questionnaire-based interviews.


Twelve public sector ambulatory health centres in Cape Town.


Non-specialist, principal staff members (N = 35)-12 doctors, 10 primary health care nurses (PHCNs), 7 registered nurses (RNs) and 6 staff nurses (SNs).


Staff members were long-standing employees (mean-doctors 6 years, PHCNs 8 years, RNs 5 years, SNs 12 years). Few had post-basic training (doctors 25%, PHCNs 20%, RNs 26%, SNs 83%). Knowledge of chronic diabetic complications was adequate, e.g. diabetic eye disease was mentioned by 100% of staff. There were gaps in knowledge of pathophysiology and of signs and symptoms of diabetic emergencies, e.g. < 33% knew control of hypertension to be important in the prevention of diabetic nephropathy. Knowledge of appropriate care of patients with hypoglycaemia (94% mentioned glucose administration) was better than that of hyperglycaemia (69% mentioned intravenous fluids). Problems were reported in inter-staff communication within (approximately 50%) and between (approximately 75%) disciplines by doctors, PHCNs and RNs. Staff/patient communication problems were reported by approximately 75% of staff. Solutions suggested by staff included meetings between staff members and with management, in-service training programmes and appointment systems for patients. Despite logistic, organisational and communication-related problems, most staff enjoy and believe in the value of their work.


This study reveals deficiencies in in-service training with consequent gaps in knowledge and practice. Recommendations that would lead to improved quality of care and increased staff and patient satisfaction have been given.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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