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An assessment of the free health care provision system in Jimma town, Southwest Ethiopia

Mirkuzie Woldie
Chali Jirra
Ayalew Tegegn


Background: Despite the fact that equity is the underlying principle of all major global health policies, difficulties have emerged in providing proper care for the poor with the introduction of user fees for health services. However, the criteria used to determine eligibility for free health services at public health facilities are either unclear or nonexistent in most sub-Saharan African countries.

Objective: To assess the free health care delivery system and the extent to which strict criteria are followed in granting free health care services in Jimma town, southwest Ethiopia.

Methods: A cross-sectional, exploratory study, employing both quantitative and qualitative study designs, was conducted from December 22–27, 2003.

Results: Fifty-eight percent of the respondents were found to be patients exempted from fees on the day of interview. There exist no clearly stated criteria in the free health care provision system of Jimma town. The presence of leakage and under-coverage were 36.9% and 43.6% respectively. The occupation and income category of the respondents showed a statistically significant association with their service category at the public health facilities (p=0.000).

Conclusion: The absence of clearly defined criteria for waiving user fees at public health facilities has made the free health care provision system difficult for both the providers and users. The system is also prone to the possibility of leakage and under-coverage. These findings imply the importance of a strict reconsideration of the exemption policy of the locality and the country with focus on efforts to produce clear criteria and guidelines in granting free health care.

Ethiopian Journal of Health Development Vol. 19(3) 2005: 188-194

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eISSN: 1021-6790