Notification of occupational diseases by general practitioners in the Western Cape
Background. Notification of occupational diseases to the Department of Labour (and in limited situations to other agencies) is an important aspect of surveillance and planning for interventions as well as compensation. A survey of general practitioners (GPs) was conducted to assess their knowledge and practice with regard to reporting of occupational diseases.
Design. Descriptive telephonic survey.
Setting. Independent general practices in the Western Cape.
Participants. One hundred and forty GPs were randoinly selected from a provincial sampling frame of 1 000 GPs.
Main outcome measures. Knowledge of notification procedures for occupational diseases, and problems encountered with the reporting system.
Results. Of a total of 109 GPs interviewed, 75% had diagnosed more than one case of occupational disease in the last 6 months. Twenty-four per cent of the total (95% confidence interval (0) 16 - 32%) indicated that they were aware of the notification requirements, and 5% (95% Cl 0.8 9%) knew the appropriate legislation. Only one GP notified the appropriate authority once the diagnosis was made. Factors influencing their reporting practice included lack of guidelines for diagnosis of common work-related conditions, lack of information regarding referral channels, problems with communicating with the patient and employer, and poor knowledge of the reporting process itself. Lack of motivation as a result of poor feedback on cases reported and the labour-intensive administration required, were also cited as factors.
Conclusion. Although the majority of GPs diagnose occupational diseases, knowledge and practice regarding notification are poor. Recommendations to overcome obstacles to notification include a simplified, uniform notification system, adequate training and support of GPs, and timeous feedback to GPs.
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