Document Type : Original Article
Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
In the attempt to move towards universal health coverage (UHC), many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are actively seeking to contract-out non-state providers (NSPs) to deliver health services to a specified population. Research on contracting-out has focused more on the impact of contracting-out than on the actual processes underlying the intervention and contextual factors that influence its performance. This paper reports on perceptions of stakeholders on contracting-out faith-based hospitals through service agreements (SAs) to provide primary healthcare services in Tanzania.
We adopted a qualitative descriptive case study design. Qualitative research tools included document review and in-depth interviews with key informants, and data were analysed using a thematic approach.
Stakeholders reported mixed perceptions on the SA. The government considered the SA as an important mechanism for improving access to primary healthcare services where there were no public hospitals. The faith-based hospitals viewed the SA as a means of overcoming serious budget and human resource constraints as a result of the tightening funding environment. However, constant delays in disbursement of funds, mistrust among partners, and ineffective contract enforcement mechanisms resulted into negative perceptions of the SA.
SAs between local governments and faith-based hospitals were perceived to be important by both parties. However, in order to implement SAs effectively, the districts should diversify the sources of financing the contracts. In addition, the government and the faith-based organizations should continually engage in dialogue so as to build more trust between the partners involved in the SA. Furthermore, the central government needs to play a greater role in building the capacity of district and regional level actors in monitoring the implementation of the SA.