The impact of health service variables on healthcare access in a low resourced urban setting in the Western Cape, South Africa

Scheffler, Elsje ; Visagie, Surona ; Schneider, Marguerite (2015-06)

CITATION: Scheffler, E., Visagie, S. & Schneider, M. 2015. The impact of health service variables on healthcare access in a low resourced urban setting in the Western Cape, South Africa. African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine, 7(1):1-11, doi:10.4102/phcfm.v7i1.820.

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Background: Health care access is complex and multi-faceted and, as a basic right, equitable access and services should be available to all user groups. Objectives: The aim of this article is to explore how service delivery impacts on access to healthcare for vulnerable groups in an urban primary health care setting in South Africa. Methods: A descriptive qualitative study design was used. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with purposively sampled participants and analysed through thematic content analysis. Results: Service delivery factors are presented against five dimensions of access according to the ACCESS Framework. From a supplier perspective, the organisation of care in the study setting resulted in available, accessible, affordable and adequate services as measured against the DistrictHealth System policies and guidelines. However, service providers experienced significant barriers in provision of services, which impacted on the quality of care, resulting in poor client and provider satisfaction and ultimately compromising acceptability of service delivery. Although users found services to be accessible, the organisation of services presented them with challenges in the domains of availability, affordability and adequacy, resulting in unmet needs, low levels of satisfaction and loss of trust. These challenges fuelled perceptions of unacceptable services. Conclusion: Well developed systems and organisation of services can create accessible, affordable and available primary healthcare services, but do not automatically translate into adequate and acceptable services. Focussing attention on how services are delivered might restore the balance between supply (services) and demand (user needs) and promote universal and equitable access.

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