Objectives: To assess health worker competence in emergency obstetric care using clinical vignettes, to link competence to availability of infrastructure in facilities, and to average annual delivery workload in facilities.
Design: Cross-sectional Health Facility Assessment linked to population-based surveillance data.
Setting: 7 districts in Brong Ahafo region, Ghana.
Participants: Most experienced delivery care providers in all 64 delivery facilities in the 7 districts.
Primary outcome measures: Health worker competence in clinical vignette actions by cadre of delivery care provider and by type of facility. Competence was also compared with availability of relevant drugs and equipment, and to average annual workload per skilled birth attendant.
Results: Vignette scores were moderate overall, and differed significantly by respondent cadre ranging from a median of 70% correct among doctors, via 55% among midwives, to 25% among other cadres such as health assistants and health extension workers (p<0.001). Competence varied significantly by facility type: hospital respondents, who were mainly doctors and midwives, achieved highest scores (70% correct) and clinic respondents scored lowest (45% correct). There was a lack of inexpensive key drugs and equipment to carry out vignette actions, and more often, lack of competence to use available items in clinical situations. The average annual workload was very unevenly distributed among facilities, ranging from 0 to 184 deliveries per skilled birth attendant, with higher workload associated with higher vignette scores.
Conclusions: Lack of competence might limit clinical practice even more than lack of relevant drugs and equipment. Cadres other than midwives and doctors might not be able to diagnose and manage delivery complications. Checking clinical competence through vignettes in addition to checklist items could contribute to a more comprehensive approach to evaluate quality of care.
Trial registration number: NCT00623337.
Keywords: Clinical vignettes; Emergency obstetric care; Health facility assessment; Quality of care; Signal functions.
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