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Leading in a time of crisis: exploring early experiences of health facility leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria’s epicentre

Mobolanle Balogun (Department of Community Health and Primary Care, College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria)
Festus Opeyemi Dada (Department of Community Health and Primary Care, College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria)
Adetola Oladimeji (Solina Center for International Development and Research, Abuja, Nigeria)
Uchenna Gwacham-Anisiobi (Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
Adekemi Sekoni (Department of Community Health and Primary Care, College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria)
Aduragbemi Banke-Thomas (School of Human Sciences, University of Greenwich, London, UK and LSE Health, The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 12 May 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive effect on the health system. Health facility leaders were at the forefront of maintaining service delivery and were exposed to varied stressors in the early phase of the pandemic. This study aims to explore the leadership experiences of health facility leaders during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria’s epicentre.

Design/methodology/approach

This study conducted an exploratory descriptive qualitative study. To achieve this, 33 health facility leaders of different cadres across primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of the public health care system in Lagos, Nigeria, were remotely interviewed. The key informant interviews were transcribed verbatim and were analysed by using thematic analysis.

Findings

The health facility leaders experienced heightened levels of fear, anxiety and stressors during the early phase of the pandemic. They also had genuine concerns about exposing their family members to the virus and had to manage some health-care workers who were afraid for their lives and reluctant. Coping mechanisms included psychological and social support, innovative hygiene measures at health facility and at home, training and staff welfare in more ways than usual. They were motivated to continue rendering services during the crisis because of their passion, their calling, the Hippocratic oath and support from the State government.

Originality/value

The experiences of health facility leaders from different parts of the world have been documented. However, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the first studies that specifically report multi-layer leadership experiences of health facility leaders during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are indebted to the health facility leaders for taking time out of their busy schedules to grant interviews for this study.

Citation

Balogun, M., Dada, F.O., Oladimeji, A., Gwacham-Anisiobi, U., Sekoni, A. and Banke-Thomas, A. (2022), "Leading in a time of crisis: exploring early experiences of health facility leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria’s epicentre", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/LHS-02-2022-0017

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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