Measuring skilled attendance in the uThungulu District, KwaZulu-Natal in 2008.
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Background The Millennium Development Goals call for two-third and three-quarter reductions in Perinatal Mortality Rates and Maternal Mortality Ratios. The main strategy towards achieving these reductions is to increase access to skilled attendance. However, it cannot be confirmed that all health professionals are skilled in managing women in labour, nor that they are functioning in enabling environments. To measure the provision of skilled attendance, this study was undertaken in five Level 1 Hospitals in the uThungulu Health District of KwaZulu-Natal. The objectives of the study were: 1. To establish perinatal outcomes for each Level 1 Hospital in uThungulu Health District. 2. To evaluate the quality of intrapartum care provided in Level 1 Hospitals in uThungulu Health District. 3. To evaluate the obstetric knowledge of health workers attending births in Level 1 Hospitals in uThungulu Health District. 4. To evaluate the obstetric skills of health workers attending births in Level 1 Hospitals in uThungulu Health District. 5. To evaluate the environment in which births are attended in Level 1 Hospitals in uThungulu Health District. 6. Compare the quality of care, the knowledge, skills and environment with perinatal outcomes. Methods Perinatal outcomes (PNMR, FSBR, ENNDR and PCI) were calculated for each hospital; maternity case records of women who have delivered in these Level 1 Hospitals were audited to assess the quality of intrapartum care; obstetric knowledge and skills of midwives were assessed; as was the enabling environment within which midwives worked, which included a measurement of their workload. A correlation between perinatal outcomes and the quality of intrapartum care, knowledge and skills and the enabling environment was performed to determine whether variables were associated. Results The overall PNMR for five hospitals in uThungulu Health District was 31 per 1000 births. Three hospitals demonstrated PNMRs below 30 per 1000, while the other two showed rates above 45 per 1000. The combined FSBR for the five hospitals was 6 per 1000 births, the combined ENNDR was 12 per 1000 live births. The PCI in all hospitals ranged between 3 and 4. An audit of maternity case records revealed that all hospitals have a high overall mean percentage score per record. However, analysis of subsets showed good performance in recordings on the labour graph, but poor performance in the admission assessment and in the management of labour. The Kruskal-Wallis Non-Parametric Test showed a statistically significant difference in overall scores amongst hospitals (p=0.01), suggesting differences in performance in all five hospitals in terms of the quality of care provided. Overall, all hospitals scored poorly on tests of obstetric knowledge and skills. There were no statistically significant differences in the overall knowledge median scores and subsets median scores amongst hospitals (p=0.07), indicating that all five hospitals performed on a similar level in terms of obstetric knowledge. However, all hospitals performed differently in relation to obstetric skills, as there was a statistically significant difference in the overall skill median scores amongst hospitals (p=0.002). Three hospitals met the enabling environment standard. All hospitals but one scored poorly on referral, and the availability of supervision on both shifts. One hospital scored poorly on drugs and supplies. Overall no hospitals reported the presence of all the elements of the enabling environment. Three hospitals had acceptable workloads. No association could be detected between variables. However, there were trends that can be traced in different hospitals. Conclusions In South Africa, from the Demographic and Health Survey, 84% of deliveries are assisted by skilled attendant. While an attendant may be present, one cannot say that skilled attendance has been provided, as it has been shown for uThungulu Health District.