Citizen's Charter in a primary health-care setting of Nepal: An accountability tool or a "mere wall poster"?

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Despite some empirical findings on the usefulness of citizen's charters on awareness of rights and services, there is a dearth of literature about charter implementation and impact on health service delivery in low-income settings.

OBJECTIVE

To gauge the level of awareness of the Charter within Nepal's primary health-care (PHC) system, perceived impact and factors affecting Charter implementation.

METHOD

Using a case study design, a quantitative survey was administered to 400 participants from 22 of 39 PHC facilities in the Dang District to gauge awareness of the Charter. Additionally, qualitative interviews with 39 key informants were conducted to explore the perceived impact of the Charter and factors affecting its implementation.

RESULTS

Few service users (15%) were aware of the existence of the Charter. Among these, a greater proportion were literate, and there were also differences according to ethnicity and occupational group. The Charter was usually not properly displayed and had been implemented with no prior public consultation. It contained information that provided awareness of health facility services, particularly the more educated public, but had limited potential for increasing transparency and holding service providers accountable to citizens. Proper display, consultation with stakeholders, orientation or training and educational factors, follow-up and monitoring, and provision of sanctions were all lacking, negatively influencing the implementation of the Charter.

CONCLUSION

Poor implementation and low public awareness of the Charter limit its usefulness. Provision of sanctions and consultation with citizens in Charter development are needed to expand the scope of Charters from information brochures to tools for accountability.

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