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Do experiences and perceptions about quality of care differ among social groups in Nepal? : A study of maternal healthcare experiences of women with and without disabilities, and Dalit and non-Dalit women.

ABSTRACT

Suboptimal quality of care and disparities in services by healthcare providers are often reported in Nepal. Experience and perceptions about quality of care may differ according to women's socio-cultural background, individual characteristics, their exposure and expectations. This study aimed to compare perceptions of the quality of maternal healthcare services between two groups that are consistently considered vulnerable, women with disabilities from both the non-Dalit population and Dalit population and their peers without disabilities from both non-Dalit and Dalit communities.A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 343 total women that included women with disabilities, Dalits and non-Dalits. Women were recruited for interview, who were aged 15-49 years, had been pregnant within the last five years and who had used maternal care services in one of the public health facilities of Rupandehi district. A 20-item, Likert-type scale with four sub-scales or dimensions: 'Health Facility', 'Healthcare Delivery', 'Inter-personal' and 'Access to Care' was used to measure women's perceptions of quality of care. Chi-square test and t test were used to compare groups and to assess differences in perceptions; and linear regression was applied to assess confounding effects of socio-demographic factors. The mean score was compared for each item and separately for each dimension.All groups, women with disabilities and women without disabilities, Dalit and non-Dalit rated their perceptions and experiences of quality of care lowly in a number of items. While perceived quality of care between women with disabilities and without disabilities in the 'Health Facility' dimension and associated items, was found to differ (p<0.05), this difference was linked to disability status, but was not linked to caste differences. For example, differences in mean scores relating to 'Cleanliness and Facilities', 'Open and Friendliness' and 'Compassion and Kindness' were highly significant (p<0.001), with women with disabilities rating these as better than women without disabilities. On the other hand, women without disabilities rated the 'Availability of cash Incentives' more highly (p<0.01). No significant differences were found between Dalit and non-Dalit women in perceived quality of care, except in relation to 'Cleanliness and facilities', which Dalit women rated lower than non-Dalits (p<0.05).Perceptions about the quality of care differed significantly by disability status but not by caste. All groups rated the quality of healthcare delivery, interpersonal and personal factors as well as access to services 'low.' Poor service user experiences and perceptions of quality of care undermine opportunities to translate increased healthcare coverage into improved access and outcomes. Greater attention is required by policy makers, health planners and providers to the improvement of quality of care in health facilities.