BACKGROUND : The indigenous health system was perceived to be a threat to the allopathic
health system. It was associated with ‘witchcraft’, and actively discouraged, and repressed
through prohibition laws. The introduction of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act No 22
of 2007 brought hope that those centuries of disrespect for traditional health systems would
change. The study examined the perceptions and experiences of allopathic health practitioners
on collaboration with traditional health practitioners in post-apartheid South Africa.
METHODS : Qualitative descriptive research methodology was used to collect data from
allopathic health practitioners employed by Limpopo’s Department of Health. In-depth focus
group discussions and meetings were conducted between January and August 2014.
Perceptions and experiences of working with traditional health practitioners were explored.
Ethical clearance was obtained from the University of Pretoria and approval from the
Department’s Research Committee.
RESULTS : Dominant views were that the two health systems were not compatible with respect
to the science involved and the source of knowledge. Overall, quality of health care will be
compromised if traditional health practitioners are allowed to work in public health facilities.
CONCLUSION : Allopathic health practitioners do not appear ready to work with traditional
health practitioners, citing challenges of quality of health care, differences regarding concept
of sciences and source of knowledge; and lack of policy on collaboration. Lack of exposure to
traditional medicine seems to impede opportunities to accept and work with traditional
healers. Exposure and training at undergraduate level regarding the traditional health system
is recommended. Policy guidelines on collaborations are urgently required.