Access and utilisation of antenatal care services in a rural community of eThekwini District in KwaZulu-Natal
Bhengu, Thandeka Jacqueline
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Introduction Although the South African Government adopted a primary health care approach to health care service provision in order to ensure equitable access to and utilization of health care services to all communities, the country continues to face challenges regarding access and utilisation of health care services especially in the rural communities. Antenatal care which is mostly provided at primary health care level is regarded as the cornerstone for the success of the maternal and child health care programme. Therefore, poor access to and under-utilisation of health care services could potentially influence the success of this programme and pregnancy outcomes. Aim of the study The aim of the study was to determine whether pregnant women from KwaMkhizwana rural community had access to and were utilising antenatal care services. Methodology A qualitative, exploratory, descriptive and contextual study was conducted guided by Thaddeus and Maine’s three delays model. Purposive sampling of the pregnant women and all categories of nurses who were employed in the three health care facilities in the area was done. Data was collected in two phases through in-depth semi-structured interviews with both the pregnant women and the nurses respectively between February and March 2016. The sample size was guided by data saturation. All data were analysed using the Tesch’s method of data analysis. Study findings Six major themes and several sub-themes emerged from the interviews with both Phase 1 and Phase 2 participants. The major themes included: 1) access to health care and emergency services, 2) availability of human and material resources, 3) social and cultural beliefs, 4) past pregnancy experiences, 5) communication and transparency regarding health care service delivery and 6) quality of antenatal care services. Summary of the findings The pregnant women encountered several challenges which led to delays in seeking, reaching and receiving antenatal care. Most of the pregnant women participants related limited access to health care, with under-utilisation of antenatal services. They were unhappy about the antenatal care services they received in the three available health care facilities in the area, which made these facilities to be inaccessible and underutilised. The nurse participants recognised the challenges facing the pregnant women regarding the access and utilisation of antenatal care services, together with the challenges faced by the nurses while working in the three available health care facilities in the area. Recommendations The recommendations that were made included: to consider building a centrally located fixed primary health care clinic that would ensure equal access to health care services, strengthening the implementation of policies regarding the referral system and ambulance services, ensuring sustainable availability of human and material resources, developing strategies to ensure that the antenatal care services are delivered in line with the South African Department of Health policies and guidelines and strengthening community education. A further study on provision of antenatal care services in the area is also recommended.