PloS one 2017 03 2412(3) e0174055 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0174055
Poor and middle-income Thai people rely heavily on primary care health services. These are staffed by a range of professionals. However, it is unknown whether the performance of primary care varies according to the staffing and organization of local service delivery units. Tambon (sub-district) health promotion hospitals (THPHs) were introduced in 2009 to upgrade the services offered by the previous health centres, but were faced with continuing shortages of doctors and nurses. The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) designated three categories of THPH, defined according to whether they were regularly staffed by a medical practitioner, a qualified nurse or non-clinical public health officers. This study aimed to compare the performance of primary care offered by the three different types of primary care facilities in one public health region of Northern Thailand (Public Health Region 2).
A cross-sectional survey was undertaken in 2013. Data were collected on accessibility, continuity, comprehensiveness, co-ordination and community orientation of care from 825 patients attending 23 primary care facilities. These were selected to include the three officially-designated types of Tambon (sub-district) health promotion hospitals (THPHs) led by medical, nursing or public health personnel. Survey scores were compared in unadjusted and adjusted analyses.
THPHs staffed only by public health officers achieved the highest performance score (Mean = 85.14, SD. = 7.30), followed by THPHs staffed by qualified nurses (Mean = 82.86, SD. = 7.06). THPHs staffed by a doctor on rotation returned the lowest scores (Mean = 81.63, SD. = 7.22).
Differences in overall scores resulted mainly from differences in reported accessibility, continuity, and comprehensiveness of care, rather than staff skill-mix per se. Policy on quality improvement should therefore focus on improving performance in these areas.