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n South African Medical Journal - Basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care in 12 South African health districts : forum - healthcare delivery
Aim. To assess the functionality of healthcare facilities with respect to providing the signal functions of basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care in 12 districts.
Setting. Twelve districts were selected from the 52 districts in South Africa, based on the number of maternal deaths, the institutional maternal mortality ratio and the stillbirth rate for the district.
Methods. All community health centres (CHCs) and district, regional and tertiary hospitals were visited and detailed information was obtained on the ability of the facility to perform the basic (BEmONC) and comprehensive (CEmONC) emergency obstetric and neonatal care signal functions.
Results. Fifty-three CHCs, 63 district hospitals (DHs), 13 regional hospitals and 4 tertiary hospitals were assessed. None of the CHCs could perform all seven BEmONC signal functions; the majority could not give parenteral antibiotics (68%), perform manual removal of the placenta (58%), do an assisted delivery (98%) or perform manual vacuum aspiration of the uterus in a woman with an uncomplicated incomplete miscarriage (96%). Seventeen per cent of CHCs could not bag-and-mask ventilate a neonate. Less than half (48%) of the DHs could perform all nine CEmONC signal functions (81% could perform eight of the nine functions), 24% could not perform caesarean sections, and 30% could not perform assisted deliveries.
Conclusions. The ability of the CHCs and district hospitals to perform the signal functions (lifesaving services) of basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care was poor in many of the districts studied. This implies that safe maternity care was not consistently available at many facilities conducting births.
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