Emergency referral transport for maternal complication: lessons from the community based maternal death audits in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India

Int J Health Policy Manag. 2015 Jan 14;4(2):99-106. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2015.14. eCollection 2015 Feb.


Background: An effective emergency referral transport system is the link between the home of the pregnant woman and a health facility providing basic or comprehensive emergency obstetric care. This study attempts to explore the role of emergency transport associated with maternal deaths in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh (UP).

Methods: A descriptive study was carried out to assess the causes of and factors leading to maternal deaths in Unnao district, UP, through community based Maternal Death Review (MDR) using verbal autopsy, in a sample of 57 maternal deaths conducted between June 1, 2009, and May 31, 2010. A facility review was also conducted in 15 of the 16 block level and district health facilities to collect information on preparedness of the facilities for treating obstetric complications including referral transportation. A descriptive analysis was carried out using ratios and percentages to analyze the availability of basic facilities which may lead to maternal deaths.

Results: It was found that there were only 10 ambulances available at 15 facilities against 19 required as per Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS). About 47% of the deaths took place in a facility, 30% enroute to a health facility and 23% at home. Twenty five percent of women were taken to one facility, 32% were taken to two facilities, and 25% were taken to three facilities while 19% were not taken to any facility before their death. Sixteen percent of the pregnant women could not arrange transportation to reach any facility. The mean time to make arrangements for travel from home to facility-1 and facility-2 to facility-3 was 3.1 hours; whereas from facility-1 to facility-2 was 9.9 hours. The mean travel time from home to facility-1 was 1 hour, from facility-1 to facility-2 was 1.4 hours and facility-2 to facility-3 was 1.6 hours.

Conclusion: The public health facility review and MDR, clearly indicates that the inter-facility transfers appropriateness and timeliness of referral are major contributing factor for maternal deaths in Unnao district, UP. The UP Government, besides strengthening Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) and Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEmONC) services in the district and state as a whole, also needs to focus on developing a functional and effective referral system on a priority basis to reduce the maternal deaths in Unnao district.

Keywords: Facility Review; Maternal Death Review (MDR); Maternal Deaths; Referral Transport.