Original Research

Ethical conflicts experienced by intensive care unit health professionals in a regional hospital, Limpopo province, South Africa

Dorah U. Ramathuba, Ndou H. Ramathuba
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 25 | a1183 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v25i0.1183 | © 2020 Dorah U. Ramathuba, Hulisani Ndou | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 May 2018 | Published: 16 April 2020

About the author(s)

Dorah U. Ramathuba, Department of Advanced Nursing Science, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, South Africa
Ndou H. Ramathuba, Department of Advanced Nursing Science, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, South Africa

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Background: Conflicts arise when healthcare providers disagree about providing optimal care to critically ill patients where resources and services are constrained.

Aim: This study investigated ethical conflicts experienced by intensive care unit (ICU) healthcare professionals working in a regional hospital, Limpopo province of South Africa.

Setting: The study was conducted at a rural public regional hospital in Vhembe district, Limpopo Province. Communities served by the hospital are poor and medically uninsured.

Methods: This study adopted a qualitative, exploratory and descriptive design. The target population comprised Health care professionals working in an ICU of the regional hospital. Purposive sample was selected and 17 unstructured interviews were conducted. Tesch’s method of data analysis was used. Ethical considerations were adhered to.

Results: Patients’ care needs were compromised because of the unavailability of beds and high-technology equipment, such as well-functioning ventilators. Doctors were not having the necessary skills required in the ICU as the majority were on community service/internship and nurses acted beyond their scope of practice because of a lack of adequately trained intensive care specialists. Infection control practices were overlooked and ‘use once’ pieces of equipment were reused. Conflicting values between nurses, patients and family of patients exist.

Conclusion: Lack of resources compromises provision of optimal and intensive care. Patients were prone to infections and their safety might have been compromised.


conflicts; ethics; health professionals; intensive care unit; ethical frameworks; professional bodies


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