Assessing the Benefits and Drawbacks of Unregulated Health Care Providers

Assessing whether utilization of UCPs bears an overall positive or negative outcome can be on various topics. On the positive side one of the aspects brought out is the access to care to those who need such care and controlling costs with limited organizational budgets. However not only should there be access to the said care but the quality and safety of such care should be ensured. It is with such notion that unabated use of UHWs could pose a potential risk to the maintenance of standards of care required for various groups of “users.”

Benefits of Use of Unregulated Care Providers

Availing health care services to the population is one of the subjects that has ranked top in the priority list of many countries (ICN, 2006). Such is however challenged by the inadequate supply of health professionals including qualified nurses (ICN, 2006). In addition the increasing frequency and severity of global pandemics such as SARS and flu outbreaks (H1N1); the growing number of individuals in old age (>65 years) who need care; and increase in conditions that necessitate such care at such an age have worked in synergy to aggravate the impact of nurse shortages (Janes, et al., 2008; ICN, 2006). Further the absence of a uniform global curriculum has curtailed the mobility of nursing labour force across the globe and where such is possible limitations to practise in the host country exists (CNA, 2008). With this noted it is may thus be advanced that though UHWs are largely untrained in modern care procedures and tasks; they serve to alleviate a situation that would have otherwise limited the access of care for people in need of it.

Secondly the benefits of using UCPs lie in the reduced costs that result from their utilization as opposed to use of health professionals. It is notable that even with adequate supply of professional care givers, “employing lower-cost multi-skilled workers [could] allow institutions to serve the same number of people with fewer higher-paid professional care providers” (Gill, 1996, p. 1). For instance UCPs salaries are lower than those of using professionally trained care givers (Gill, 1996). With the costs of healthcare increasing globally (ICN, 2006) such cost reductions could help provide access to the increasing number of population in need of care. However use of UCPs is not entirely a costless venture; costs such as institutional training, liability for injuries, increased need for equipment, and the opportunity cost for lost quality of care may reverse the gains achieved by cost savings through lower salaries (Gill, 1996).

A third probable benefit of using UCPs could also be advanced based on the shortage of regulated nurses to meet current demand for care. By training UCPs to take up some of the “simpler tasks often performed by professionals; … the professionals [would be allowed] to focus on the complex aspects of their work” (Gill, 1996, p. 1). It is for instance notable that different models of home based care for people living with HIV/ Aids such as those where nurses visit the homes occasionally to assess the care being offered by trained members of the family and community; have positively influenced the outcomes for individuals who cannot afford specialized care in hospitals or care centres and also bear the potential for enhancing outcomes where the systems of healthcare has limited capacity to address the intricate needs of such subjects (Ncama, 2005; Herron, 1996). Another example would be in relation to countries such as China, India and Pakistan where it is noted that the use of alternative care providers such as lady health visitors, and doulas has traditionally filled the gap in regions where access to professionals is absent or over-stripped by the demand (ICN, 2006). It is with such observations that UCPs cannot thus be argued to be completely irrelevant to ensuring better health care systems exist in various countries.

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