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Use of health care services during the Covid-19 pandemic in Ethiopia: Evidence from a health facility survey

By Zemzem Shigute Shuka, Anagaw Derseh Mebratie, Getnet Alemu, Matthias Rieger, Arjun Singh Bedi

Posted 10 Aug 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.09.21261754

Abstract Introduction: In recent years Ethiopia has made enormous strides in enhancing access to health care, especially, maternal and child health care (MCH). With the onset and spread of Covid-19, the attention of the health care system has pivoted to handling the disease, potentially at the cost of other health care needs. This paper explores whether this shift has come at the cost of non Covid related health care, especially the use of MCH services. Methods: Graphs, descriptive statistics and paired t-tests of significance are used to compare levels of inpatient and outpatient health care service utilization before and after the onset and spread of the virus. The analysis is based on a survey of 59 health centers and 29 public hospitals located in urban Ethiopia, the most acutely affected region of the country. Data on the use of health care services for a period of 24 months was gathered from the health management information systems (HMIS) of these facilities. Results: There is a sharp reduction in the use of both inpatient (20-27%) and outpatient (27-34%) care, particularly in Addis Ababa, which has been most acutely affected by the virus. However, the decline does not come at the cost of MCH services. The use of several MCH components (skilled birth attendant deliveries, immunization, post-natal care) remains unaffected throughout the period while others (family planning services, ante-natal care) experience a decline (8-17%) in the immediate aftermath but recover soon after. Conclusion: Concerns about the crowding out of MCH services due to the focus on Covid 19 are unfounded. Pro-active measures taken by the government and health care facilities to ring-fence the use of essential health care services have mitigated service disruptions. The results underline the resilience and agility displayed by one of the worlds most resource-constrained health care systems.

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