Quality of care in public and private primary health care facilities: structural comparisons in Jamaica

Bull Pan Am Health Organ. 1994 Jun;28(2):122-41.


This article examines the quality of care provided by Jamaican primary health care clinics by comparing various structural quality indexes derived from a nationwide 1990 survey of 366 public clinics and 189 private clinics. This comparison points up important differences in the quality of care being provided by public versus private and urban versus rural facilities that might not have been anticipated. Among other things, the study found that the public clinics provided better prenatal diagnosis and counseling and more family planning services than the private clinics. However, the private clinics tended to be better condition, better equipped and supplied, and better able to provide certain laboratory test results in a timely manner. Comparison of urban and rural public clinics indicated that the urban clinics were somewhat better provisioned with equipment, supplies, and pharmaceuticals. However, the rural clinics appeared to be in better repair. Comparison of basic and higher-level public clinics showed the basic clinics to be in better condition and more fully staffed than the higher-level clinics while having similar perinatal diagnostic capabilities. However, the higher-level public clinics tended to have an overall profile more resembling that of the private clinics, being better equipped and supplied than the basic clinics. While structural measures of quality such as those employed here tend to poorly estimate health outcomes, they do serve as good indicators of access to services where resources are severely constrained. For policy-makers, the results presented here could prove useful in guiding concrete interventions, summarizing the structural elements of health care quality at different types of facilities, and providing a method for less costly evaluation of programs designed to improve services at primary health care clinics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / standards*
  • Health Facilities, Proprietary / standards*
  • Humans
  • Jamaica
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Quality of Health Care*