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Financial access to health care in Karuzi, Burundi: a household-survey based performance evaluation

Author(s): Lambert-Evans Sophie | Ponsar Frederique | Reid Tony | Bachy Catherine | Van Herp Michel | Philips Mit

Journal: International Journal for Equity in Health
ISSN 1475-9276

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 36;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Background In 2003, Médecins Sans Frontières, the provincial government, and the provincial health authority began a community project to guarantee financial access to primary health care in Karuzi province, Burundi. The project used a community-based assessment to provide exemption cards for indigent households and a reduced flat fee for consultations for all other households. Methods An evaluation was carried out in 2005 to assess the impact of this project. Primary data collection was through a cross-sectional household survey of the catchment areas of 10 public health centres. A questionnaire was used to determine the accuracy of the community-identification method, households' access to health care, and costs of care. Household socioeconomic status was determined by reported expenditures and access to land. Results Financial access to care at the nearest health centre was ensured for 70% of the population. Of the remaining 30%, half experienced financial barriers to access and the other half chose alternative sites of care. The community-based assessment increased the number of people of the population who qualified for fee exemptions to 8.6% but many people who met the indigent criteria did not receive a card. Eighty-eight percent of the population lived under the poverty threshold. Referring to the last sickness episode, 87% of households reported having no money available and 25% risked further impoverishment because of healthcare costs even with the financial support system in place. Conclusion The flat fee policy was found to reduce cost barriers for some households but, given the generalized poverty in the area, the fee still posed a significant financial burden. This report showed the limits of a programme of fee exemption for indigent households and a flat fee for others in a context of widespread poverty.
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