Human resource management in Ethiopian public hospitals

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Background: In Ethiopia, public hospitals deal with a persistent human resource crisis, even by Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) standards. Policy and hospital reforms, however, have thus far resulted in limited progress towards addressing the strategic human resource management (SHRM) challenges Ethiopia’s public hospitals face. Methods: To explore the contextual factors influencing these SHRM challenges of Ethiopian public hospitals, we conducted a qualitative study based on the Contextual SHRM framework of Paauwe. A total of 19 structured interviews were conducted with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and HR managers from a purposive sample of 15 hospitals across Ethiopia. An additional four focus groups were held with professionals and managers. Results: The study found that hospitals compete on the supply side for scarce resources, including skilled professionals. There was little reporting on demand-side competition for health services provided, service quality, and service innovation. Governmental regulations were the main institutional mechanism in place. These regulations also emphasized human resources and were perceived to tightly regulate employee numbers, salaries, and employment arrangements at detailed levels. These regulations were perceived to restrict the autonomy of hospitals regarding SHRM. Regulation-induced differences in allowances and external employment arrangements were among the concerns that decreased motivation and job satisfaction and caused employees to leave. The mismatch between regulation and workforce demands posed challenges for leadership and caused leaders to be perceived as incompetent and unable when they could not successfully address workforce needs. Conclusions: Bottom-up involvement in SHRM may help resolve the aforementioned persistent problems. The Ethiopian government might better loosen regulations and provide more autonomy to hospitals to develop SHRM and implement mechanisms that emphasize the quality of the health services demanded rather than the quantity of human resources supplied.

Original languageEnglish
Article number763
JournalBmc Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

We thank the Federal Ministry of Health and Regional Health Bureaus for making secondary documents available and granting letters of support for cooperation. The authors wholeheartedly thank the hospitals and study participants for providing the pertinent information used in this study.

Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s).


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