Direct and time costs of accessing and using health care may limit health care access, affect welfare loss, and lead to catastrophic spending especially among poorest households. To date, limited attention has been given to time and transport costs and how these costs are distributed across patients, facility and service types especially in poor settings. We aimed to fill this knowledge gap.
We used data from 1407 patients in 150 facilities in Tanzania. Data were collected in January 2012 through patient exit-interviews. All costs were disaggregated across patients, facility and service types. Data were analysed descriptively by using means, medians and equity measures like equity gap, ratio and concentration index.
71% of patients, especially the poorest and rural patients, accessed care on foot. The average travel time and cost were 30 minutes and 0.41USD respectively. The average waiting time and consultation time were 47 min and 13 min respectively. The average medical cost was 0.23 USD but only18% of patients paid for health care. The poorest and rural patients faced substantial time burden to access health care (travel and waiting) but incurred less transport and medical costs compared to their counterparts. The consultation time was similar across patients. Patients spent more time travelling to public facilities and dispensaries while incurring less transport cost than accessing other facility types, but waiting and consultation time was similar across facility types. Patients paid less amount in public than in private facilities. Postnatal care and vaccination clients spent less waiting and consultation time and paid less medical cost than antenatal care clients.
Our findings reinforce the need for a greater investment in primary health care to reduce access barriers and cost burdens especially among the worse-offs. Facility’s construction and renovation and increased supply of healthcare workers and medical commodities are potential initiatives to consider. Other initiatives may need a multi-sectoral collaboration