COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Availability of emergency obstetric care (EmOC) among public and private health facilities in rural northwest Bangladesh

Shegufta S Sikder, Alain B Labrique, Hasmot Ali, Abu A M Hanif, Rolf D W Klemm, Sucheta Mehra, Keith P West, Parul Christian
BMC Public Health 2015 January 31, 15: 36
25637319

BACKGROUND: Although safe motherhood strategies recommend that women seek timely care from health facilities for obstetric complications, few studies have described facility availability of emergency obstetric care (EmOC). We sought to describe and compare availability and readiness to provide EmOC among public and private health facilities commonly visited for pregnancy-related complications in two districts of northwest Bangladesh. We also described aspects of financial and geographic access to healthcare and key constraints to EmOC provision.

METHODS: Using data from a large population-based community trial, we identified and surveyed the 14 health facilities (7 public, 7 private) most frequently visited for obstetric complications and near misses as reported by women. Availability of EmOC was based on provision of medical services, assessed through clinician interviews and record review. Levels of EmOC availability were defined as basic or comprehensive. Readiness for EmOC provision was based on scores in four categories: staffing, equipment, laboratory capacity, and medicines. Readiness scores were calculated using unweighted averages. Costs of C-section procedures and geographic locations of facilities were described. Textual analysis was used to identify key constraints.

RESULTS: The seven surveyed private facilities offered comprehensive EmOC compared to four of the seven public facilities. With 100% representing full readiness, mean EmOC readiness was 81% (range: 63%-91%) among surveyed private facilities compared to 67% (range: 48%-91%) in public facilities (p = 0.040). Surveyed public clinics had low scores on staffing and laboratory capacity (69%; 50%). The mean cost of the C-section procedure in private clinics was $77 (standard deviation: $16) and free in public facilities. The public sub-district facilities were the only facilities located in rural areas, with none providing comprehensive EmOC. Shortages in specialized staff were listed as the main barrier to EmOC provision in public facilities.

CONCLUSIONS: Although EmOC availability and readiness was higher among the surveyed seven most commonly visited private clinics, public facilities appeared to be more affordable for C-section and more geographically accessible. Strategies to retain anesthesiologists and surgeons, such as non-financial incentives, are needed to improve EmOC provision in the public sector. Centralized blood banks are recommended to streamline safe blood acquisition for obstetric surgeries.

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