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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Health workers’ perceptions of facilitators of and barriers to institutional delivery in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia

Tesfay Gebrehiwot12*, Miguel San Sebastian2, Kerstin Edin23 and Isabel Goicolea2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Mekelle University, Mekelle, Ethiopia

2 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

3 Department of Nursing, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:137  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-137

Published: 10 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Evidence shows that the three delays, delay in 1) deciding to seek medical care, 2) reaching health facilities and 3) receiving adequate obstetric care, are still contributing to maternal deaths in low-income countries. Ethiopia is a major contributor to the worldwide death toll of mothers with a maternal mortality ratio of 676 per 100,000 live births. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health launched a community-based health-care system in 2003, the Health Extension Programme (HEP), to tackle maternal mortality. Despite strong efforts, universal access to services remains limited, particularly skilled delivery attendance. With the help of ‘the three delays’ framework, this study explores health-service providers’ perceptions of facilitators and barriers to the utilization of institutional delivery in Tigray, a northern region of Ethiopia.

Methods

Twelve in-depth interviews were carried out with eight health extension workers (HEWs) and four midwives. Each interview lasted between 90 and 120 minutes. Data were analysed through a thematic analysis approach.

Results

Three themes emerged from the analysis: the struggle between tradition and newly acquired knowledge, community willingness to deal with geographical barriers, and striving to do a good job with insufficient resources. These themes represent the three steps in the path towards receiving adequate institutional delivery care at a health facility. Of the themes, ‘increased community awareness’, ‘organization of the community’ and ‘hospital with specialized staff’ were recognized as facilitators. On the other hand, ‘delivery as a natural event’, ‘cultural tradition and rituals’, ‘inaccessible transport’, ‘unmet community expectation’ and ‘shortage of skilled human resources’ were represented as barriers to institutional delivery.

Conclusions

The participants in this study gave emphasis to the major barriers to institutional delivery that are closely connected with the three delays model. Despite the initiatives being implemented by the Tigray Regional Health Bureau, much is still needed to enhance the humanization approach of delivery care on a broader level of the region. A quick solution is needed to address the major issue of lack of transport accessibility. The poor capacity of the HEWs to provide delivery services, calls for reconsidering staffing patterns of remote health posts and readdressing the issue of downgraded health facilities would address unmet community needs.

Keywords:
Health workers; Perception; Institutional delivery; Health extension programme; Health facilities; Barriers; Ethiopia