Getting Women to Hospital Is Not Enough

A Qualitative Study of Access to Emergency Obstetric Care in Bangladesh

Published in: Quality and Safety in Health Care, v. 15, no. 3, June 2006, p. 214-219

Posted on on June 01, 2006

by Emma Pitchforth, Edwin van Teijlingen, Wendy Graham, Mary Dixon-Woods, Mushtaque Chowdhury

Read More

Access further information on this document at Quality and Safety in Health Care

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

OBJECTIVE: To explore what happened to poor women in Bangladesh once they reached a hospital providing comprehensive emergency obstetric care (EmOC) and to identify support mechanisms. DESIGN: Mixed methods qualitative study. SETTING: Large government medical college hospital in Bangladesh. SAMPLE: Providers and users of EmOC. METHODS: Ethnographic observation in obstetrics unit including interviews with staff and women using the unit and their carers. RESULTS: Women had to mobilise significant financial and social resources to fund out of pocket expenses. Poorer women faced greater challenges in receiving treatment as relatives were less able to raise the necessary cash. The official financial support mechanism was bureaucratic and largely unsuitable in emergency situations. Doctors operated a less formal "poor fund" system to help the poorest women. There was no formal assessment of poverty; rather, doctors made "adjudications" of women's need for support based on severity of condition and presence of friends and relatives. Limited resources led to a "wait and see" policy that meant women's condition could deteriorate before help was provided. CONCLUSIONS: Greater consideration must be given to what happens at health facilities to ensure that (1) using EmOC does not further impoverish families; and (2) the ability to pay does not influence treatment. Developing alternative finance mechanisms to reduce the burden of out of pocket expenses is crucial but challenging. Increased investment in EmOC must be accompanied by an increased focus on equity.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.