Tanzania Journal of Health Research

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Distribution of primary health care facilities in Mtwara District, Tanzania: availability and accessibility of services

Irene R. Mremi, Mercy Mbise, Job A. Chaula


Background: Access to health care services is a significant factor to health seeking practices that contributes to a healthy population. Improving health care accessibility is an important health priority in low-income countries. The objective of this study was to determine distribution of health care facilities and identify the high priority areas, which require more services in Mtwara, southern Tanzania.

Methods: This study was carried in Mtwara Rural district of southern Tanzania and involved health care facilities. A hand held global positioning system was used to geo-reference the coordinates of all facilities. A questionnaire with both closed and open-ended questions was used to gather information from patients who attended the respective facilities. Interviews with district health officials and facility in-charges were conducted.

Results:  There were 38 health in the district. Most of them were located within southern part of the district. The majority of facilities (97%) were government owned. On average each facility was serving 2,400 population. Malaria management, reproductive and child health services, family planning and integrated management of childhood illnesses were offered by all health facilities in the district. Prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV was offered by 34 (89.5%) facilities. Tuberculosis services were offered by only 3 facilities while voluntary counselling and testing of HIV and anti-retroviral treatment services were available in 15 and 10 health facilities, respectively. Only 4 facilities had laboratory and inpatients services. The majority of the staff included Medical Attendants (39%), Nurse Midwives (34%), and Clinical Officers (20%). Assistant Medical Officers and Nursing Officers each accounted for 2% of the total staff. There were no Medical Officers, laboratory technicians or pharmaceutical technicians in the district.  A total of 408 health facility clients (≥18yrs) were interviewed. Factors influencing the choice of a health facility were the availability of special services, medicine and qualified human resources.

Conclusion: The majority of facilities in Mtwara are government and there is disparity in the distribution of the facilities. Availability of medicines and qualified human resources were the major factors on the preference for accessing health care services.

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