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Q&A with Dr Luntu Galo

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Dr Luntu Galo is the Manager, Medical Services at the Cecelia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane, East London in the Eastern Cape. He completed his medical internship in 2005 and has been involved with ASELPH since 2013. He facilitates on the ASELPH programme in strategic organisational performance and assists with policy transformation and health systems. At 38, aside from being a medical professional, Dr Galo also holds an MBA from Rhodes University.

ASELPH recently asked him about his experience as a faculty member with the ASELPH programme.

Q - What inspired you to pursue a career in health education/leadership education? Why did you join the ASELPH team? 

A – Medicine has always been my primary calling. My father was a Maths and Science teacher and a school principal. He too had a passion for medicine but was forced to abandon his medical studies in his 3rd year. As such a career in medicine was always in my future.

My involvement in ASELPH happened when I met the ASEPLH team that visited Cecelia Makiwane Hospital. I had just completed my MBA and Bill Shaw, a member of the ASELPH team, was inspired by the fact that I was a young professional and leader in the medical field. I was roped into ASELPH and have been involved ever since.    

Q - What has been your experience teaching in the ASELPH programme?

A – I must admit that I have had very different experiences with the two ASELPH cohorts. The two groups – University of Pretoria and the University of Fort Hare – are very different given the different experiences of the participants. 

Teaching my colleagues has been a frightening experience. However, at the same time it has been an exciting one given that I get to share my experiences, knowledge and expertise. I have also had the opportunity to learn from my colleagues – this is quite a unique experience.

Q – What does ASELPH bring to the healthcare conversation in South Africa?

A – It is critical that healthcare professionals start managing and leading in their own profession. ASELPH provides leadership in healthcare by healthcare professionals. 

The ASELPH programme provides an opportunity for healthcare professionals to get education from other healthcare professionals. This happens on the basis that a contextual leadership programme has been designed specifically for healthcare by those people who are already making a difference in the sector. 

In addition to this, ASELPH is able to bring together key stakeholders in the healthcare sector who can “plough back” in terms of their own individual skills, knowledge, experiences and expertise. 

ASELPH provides a programme that allows young healthcare professionals to develop and strengthen their leadership capacity and competency in a shorter period of time. I believe that I am a living example of what ASELPH stands for and of what ASELPH intends to achieve.

Q - A major goal of ASELPH is to be a catalyst for South Africa’s health care transformation. How do you envision your personal role in that transformation?

A – Government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) programme is aimed at providing health for all in terms of universal coverage within healthcare. We, as faculty, must ensure that we are equipping managers with the necessary leadership and managerial skills for the successful implementation of NHI.

In doing this, it is our role as faculty to firstly assess candidates who are suitable for the ASELPH programme and, secondly, to advise the National Department of Health (NDoH) and the Minister on lessons learnt from healthcare professionals who are in the system and who have significant input to make to the overall debate on health care in South Africa. 

Within this context the biggest challenge is implementation. As such we need to broaden the ASELPH programme to include as many healthcare professionals as possible to ensure that we can make a difference. In addition to this, those fellows who have been through the programme must be supported and assisted to start implementing the changes they have experienced in the ASELPH learning programme in order to impact the broader healthcare sector.

Q - What you have gained from the intensive capacity building at Harvard T C Chan School of Public Health?  

A – I was selected to attend a programme entitled “decentralisation tools for the decentralisation of health” at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

A critical lesson that I learnt was the fact that, to be able to start to implement NHI, we need to look seriously at decentralisation. Although there is a lot of policy that has been written and a lot of lip-service is paid to decentralisation, nothing is practically being implemented. In addition to this, although there are areas where decentrialisation is being implemented, this is fragmented and is having no direct impact on universal healthcare service delivery.

My involvement with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has shown that the NDoH needs to seriously consider devolving certain of the health functions to the lowest level of healthcare. I will admit that this is an idealistic situation but it is something that we need to discuss. 

An example would be the devolution of primary healthcare to municipal level. Although there is a feeling that municipalities are dysfunctional, the only way that we can ensure that the necessary competencies are built is through devolving primary healthcare and ensuring that municipalities take direct responsibility for this service. However, when we do so, we must ensure that we have the necessary support and learning mechanisms in place – from provincial and national level – to guarantee success.

Q - What other capacity development opportunities have you been exposed to through the ASELPH programme?

A - I was fortunate enough to attend the Human Resources for Health Conference in Recife, Brazil in 2013. During this conference I realised that South Africa is not the only country with healthcare issues in rural areas. It was clear from this conference that countries around the world struggle with decentralisation, have economic challenges and lack key infrastructure in relation to healthcare. 

To be able to address these issues healthcare professionals need to look at the bigger picture and find ways of operating in constrained environments as healthcare professionals in the public sector.

Q - Case study development and teaching is a cornerstone of the ASELPH Programme. Can you please share what you have gained in this regard and how you have used this teaching methodology within the ASELPH programme?  

A - Our interaction with Harvard has been key to the success of the use of case studies within the ASELPH programme. 

As a faculty member I now have a greater understanding of how to structure case studies specifically for use within the ASELPH programme. This has allowed me to enhance my teaching methodology to strengthen the learning process for the ASELPH Fellows. This not only benefits me as faculty but is also of interest to the Fellows as they are able to identify lessons and apply these in the workplace.

Q - Have you developed any unique case studies within the ASELPH programme?

A - I have developed a case study on Frere Hospital that contains various elements applicable to the health care environment focusing on strategic organisational performance and quality modality. This case study arises from my MBA dissertation and I am hoping that this is going to add value within the ASELPH programme. 

I have heard from my colleagues that Harvard was very impressed with this case study and are considering publishing it – however, there is still some work to be done from my side before publication.

Q - What would you advise new faculty joining the ASELPH team for the first time?

A - Enjoy the experience, have fun, assist, critique, provide input and give ideas on how ASELPH and its objectives can be improved. ASELPH is a young programme, is a critical learning space and needs to grow itself into a concrete formula for health sector leadership and management transformation. 

QCan you share an anecdote that conveys the spirit of the Fellowship of the ASELPH programme?

A - Work hard and play hard! During one session the groups were preparing for a presentation the next day. The facilitator had to force them to go home otherwise they would have been in class all night.  This shows the seriousness and commitment attached to the programme. I have also been impressed with the integration amongst ASELPH Fellows. Despite there being position and seniority differences, ASELPH Fellows have combined for a common cause. 

Q - How would you describe the impact of the ASELPH Programme on:

Individual Fellows – the impact has been engaging with theory, practice, the realities of the public health sector and how to “marry” the three within the knowledge space. Those Fellows who have graduated are now working differently.

Organisational level/work place – health professionals, both young and old, are now seeing that there is a programme specifically designed for them to assist them to acquire the skills and knowledge to have an impact in their sector. ASELPH delivers something that has not been in the academic space of health care – it is a focused programme combining elements of an MBA and a MPH but making it “real” for Fellows. It provides an integrated and aligned leadership and management formula to health care professionals to improve the overall health sector.