Challenges Facing Pregnant Women in Accessing Free Maternity Services: the Case of Level Five and Six Hospitals in Kenya
Free maternity healthcare services were introduced in Kenya in the year 2013.This is in line with the health system objective of universal health coverage in the fifth millennium development goal. The aim was to increase skilled birth attendants and reduce inequality by making services available to all pregnant women. Access to skilled delivery has been identified as a key factor in reducing maternal mortality. On implementation of the policy, there was increased demand which led to constraints at the health facilities especially levels 5 and 6 facilities. However, there are multiple factors that hinder accessibility, affordability and availability of health services. Therefore this study mainly investigated challenges faced by pregnant mothers in accessing and utilizing free maternal service healthcare especially in levels 5 and 6 health facilities in Kenya. A descriptive, exploratory research design was used in this study. The significance of the coefficients was tested at 1%, 5% and 10% significance levels. Secondary data was obtained from the Ministry of Health on staffing, facilities and deliveries in health facilities under study. From the study, results revealed that at 1% significance level, a hospital with obstetricians, ambulances, beds and presence of free maternity policy significantly increases utilization of free maternity services at levels 5 and 6 health facilities. Midwives and theatres were found to be statistically insignificant in influencing pregnant mothers to utilize free maternity services in levels 5 and 6 hospitals. Based on the analyzed results, the study recommends to the ministry of health through the national government to map out the facilities with high number of deliveries and work out a policy on staffing to guide County governments to ensure increased demand for free maternity services. Since, most mothers share bed at the hospital facility, there is need for improvement of infrastructure to give room for more beds at these facilities to encourage more consumption of free maternity services. Finally, there is a need to increase efficiency and effectiveness at these health facilities to enhance the policy. Therefore the government need to increase the amount of funds to these levels 5 and 6 hospitals to strengthen the free maternity services.
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