The Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ESOG) received a warm welcome as it launched its new project entitled- Implementing Quality Improvement (QI) in Reproductive Health (RH): Family Planning (FP) and Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) in selected hospitals and Health Centers of Amhara and Oromia, Ethiopia and De-stigmatization of Safe abortion among Health Care Workers in Ethiopia.
A launching event was underway in Debre Birhan of Amhara Regional State and Assela of Oromia Regional state on August 1 and 4, 2017, respectively.
Facilitated by Eyob Mohammed, the project coordinator, the events brought together Dr. Balkachew Nigatu, ESOG’s vice president and the Principal Investigator (PI )of the project for the Amhara, Dr. Muhidin Abdo, ESOG’s executive board member and the PI of the project for the Oromia, AtoBedri Ahmed of the Federal Ministry of Health, Ato Alemayehu Hunduma from Oromia Health Bureau and many other health facilities.
Attending the events were professionals from Zone Health Departments and Wereda Health offices and others from various health facilities.
With welcoming notes from Ato Bekri, Dr. Balkachew and Dr. Muhidin along with officials from regional health bureaus, the events saw a presentation from Eyob and a very warm deliberation by participants on the project. The enthusiasm was evident among participants as the opinions circulated around.
“We had distributed the project document prior to the event,” said Eyob explaining the enthusiasm. “They have read the document.”
Participants’ enthusiasm was gauged in their attempts to add value to and expand the scope of the project. The consideration of youth friendly services in the project was one such opinion well shared among participants in both towns. The opinions did catch attention.
“We might even write a project on that opinion,” Dr. Balkachew told the gathering in DebreBirhan.
Participants’ concern on the duration of the project was the otherevidence, among others, for the enthusiasm. The concern is understandable given the delay in the launching of the project. The project coordinators promised to take the matter to the donors for possible extension of the project life time.
The participants have not only been optimistic though; some were cautious about some issues. The level of commitment of health workers to fully own and implement the project was one such concern.
“Health workers sometimes refuse to give the service even after they take a series of trainings,” Muluwork Beyene, the Zonal Health Officer indicated.
The commitment of health workers has also been a concern well shared by the Oromia Health Bureau Chief Ato Alemayehu. “This is not about ESOG, they have done. This is about the very people we are meant to serve. To that end we have to be committed enough to implement the project even beyond its completion,” Alemayehu told the gathering at Asslea.
Participants also shared their experiences of the dilemma professionals are facing regarding delivering abortion services. They explained that religion and cultural attitudes have been standing between health professionals and access to abortion services.
“I once remember forcing a health worker to deliver the service against his will and the woman still thanks me for it,” FanosseDechassa, chief executive officer at Abmossa Hospital shared his experience. Fanosse was not alone in considering the idea of making abortion delivery legally binding to health workers.
The fact that health workers are not allowed to ask for birth certificates or police reports on rapes of any kind before they discharge their duties has also been one of the sticking points in addressing abortion.
“That does not mean we encourage abortion,” Dr. Muhidin explains to the gathering in Assela. “The woman would inevitably seek the service through informal channels, which have been claiming the lives of our sisters and mothers.”
Funded by David and Packard Lucile Foundation, the new project has the objective of implementing integrated national QI in RH: CAC and FP among 60 health facilities in Amhara and Oromia Regional States. To that end the project also aims at selecting hospitals for the support on QI on CAC and FP; providing orientation training about mentoring and quality improvement to 16 Health Care Workers (HCWs) that serve as mentors (Midwives and obstetricians), the HCWs should have a training on family planning and CAC and conducting baseline assessment on quality of care among the selected health facilities.