User fees and maternity services in Ethiopia

Type Journal Article - International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics
Title User fees and maternity services in Ethiopia
Volume 115
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
Page numbers 310-315
To examine user fees for maternity services and how they relate to provision, quality, and use of maternity services in Ethiopia.

The national assessment of emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC) examined user fees for maternity services in 751 health facilities that provided childbirth services in 2008.

Overall, only about 6.6% of women gave birth in health facilities. Among facilities that provided delivery care, 68% charged a fee in cash or kind for normal delivery. Health centers should be providing maternity services free of charge (the healthcare financing proclamation), yet 65% still charge for some aspect of care, including drugs and supplies. The average cost for normal and cesarean delivery was US $7.70 and US $51.80, respectively. Nineteen percent of these facilities required payment in advance for treatment of an obstetric emergency. The health facilities that charged user fees had, on average, more delivery beds, deliveries (normal and cesarean), direct obstetric complications treated, and a higher ratio of skilled birth attendants per 1000 deliveries than those that did not charge. The case fatality rate was 3.8% and 7.1% in hospitals that did and did not charge user fees, respectively.

Utilization of maternal health services is extremely low in Ethiopia and, although there is a government decree against charging for maternity service, 65% of health centers do charge for some aspects of maternal care. As health facilities are not reimbursed by the government for the costs of maternity services, this loss of revenue may account for the more and better services offered in facilities that continue to charge user fees. User fees are not the only factor that determines utilization in settings where the coverage of maternity services is extremely low. Additional factors include other out-of-pocket payments such as cost of transport and food and lodging for accompanying relatives. It is important to keep quality of care in mind when user fees are under discussion.

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