Working in collaboration with traditional healers

2011-09-27 00:00

WOULD you, as an employer or manager, accept a sick note obtained by an employee from a traditional healer?

KwaZulu-Natal -based traditional health practitioner Makhosi Mbatha, who is based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) department of traditional medicine, believes that employers will increasingly need to address their policy on traditional medicine, with a view toward increasing collaboration efforts between employee assistance professionals and traditional health practitioners.

Attending the annual conference of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association of SA (EAP-SA) in Durban on Friday, I was struck by the interest and level of engagement on the issue of traditional African medicine and its role in employee wellness.

While employers remain concerned about the authenticity and professionalism of some traditional healers, there is an undoubted need to include them in employee-assistance programmes.

The vast majority of South Africans will consult with a traditional healer at some point in their lives. While this in itself may not necessarily impact heavily on an organisation, Mbatha pointed out that many of these individuals are “hard-core traditionalists” who will not use the services of Western-style medical practitioners.

She stressed that in order for employee-assistance programmes and interventions to be effective, employee-assistance professionals need to work in collaboration with traditional health practitioners and the traditional medicine fraternity.

Mbatha said traditional health practitioners are consulted by employees for a variety of ailments, adding that they can be effective in treating employees — while also enhancing the organisation’s commitment to cultural sensitiveness and inclusivity. This is particularly important in light of calls for more innovative and integrative employee wellness programmes.

Although the traditional medicine sector appears to be somewhat fragmented, she advised that employers contact and work in collaboration with registered practitioners who form part of an industry association.

Interestingly, a number of organisations have already formed relationships, policies and partnerships with the traditional medicine fraternity. They include the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the eThekwini Municipality and Eskom.


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