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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 1/2017

Assessing emergency obstetric and newborn care: can performance indicators capture health system weaknesses?

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth > Ausgabe 1/2017
Andrea Solnes Miltenburg, Richard Forget Kiritta, Thabea Benedicto Bishanga, Jos van Roosmalen, Jelle Stekelenburg
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12884-017-1282-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Regular monitoring and assessment of performance indicators for emergency obstetric and newborn care can help to identify priorities to improve health services for women and newborns. The aim of this study was to perform a district wide assessment of emergency obstetric and newborn care performance and identify ways for improvement.


Facility assessment of 13 dispensaries, four health centers and one district hospital in a rural district in Tanzania was performed in two data collection periods in 2014. Assessment included a facility walk-through to observe facility infrastructure and interviews with facility in-charges to assess available services, staff and supplies. In addition facility statistics were collected for the year 2013. Results were discussed with district representatives.


Approximately 65% of expected births took place in health facilities and 22% of women with complications were treated in facilities expected to provide emergency care. None of the facilities was, however, able to perform at the expected level for emergency obstetric and newborn care since not all required signal functions could be provided. Inadequate availability of essential drugs such as uterotonics, antibiotics and anticonvulsants as well as lack of ability to perform vacuum extraction and blood transfusion limited performance.


Performance of emergency obstetric and newborn care in Magu District was not in accordance with expected guidelines and highly influenced by lack of available resources and an insufficiently functioning health care system. Improving assessment approaches, to look beyond the signal functions, can capture weaknesses in the system and will help to understand poor performance and identify locally applicable ways for improvement.
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