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Objective: Tanzania has a high maternal mortality ratio of 556 per 100,000 live births. Timely caesarean sections avert mortality due to life threatening conditions like obstructed labour. This study assessed capacity of selected health facilities to provide caesarean sections in terms of infrastructure, equipment, essential supplies and skill mix. Methods: A cross-sectional mixed methods design was used to include systematic observations using highly structured checklists to determine the adequacy of infrastructure, functional status of equipment, availability of supplies and skill mix. An interview guide and a key-informant interview guide were used to collect data from assistant medical officers and key informants respectively. Descriptive data analysis was conducted using IBM SPSS software package.
Results: Deficit for doctors ranged between 3 (37.5%) and 5 (62.5%) per each district hospital. Two out of 3 health centres did not have doctors. Deficit for assistant medical doctors ranged between 10 (62.5%) and 11 (68.8%) per each district hospital. In terms of absolute numbers, assistant medical doctors were more than doctors. Not all facilities had all the equipment, infrastructure or supplies. Challenges cited by most assistant medical officers were; shortage of theatre-trained nurses (91%; n=21), theatres not functioning (61%; n=14), inadequate blood supply (87%; n=20) and inadequate equipment (96%; n=22).
Conclusion: Capacity of health facilities to provide caesarean sections was found to be sub-optimal due to health workforce shortages, inadequate infrastructure, equipment and supplies, thus increasing the risk of maternal deaths. These findings are useful in informing strategies to reduce maternal mortality.
Funding: College of Health Sciences of the University of KwaZulu-Natal
Keywords: Task sharing, skill mix, surgical equipment, assistant medical officers, infrastructure, caesarean sections, obstetric drugs and medical supplies