Introduction: Since March 2014, Guinea has been in the midst of the largest, longest, and deadliest outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease ever recorded. Due to sub-optimal health conditions prior to the outbreak, Guinean women and children may have been especially vulnerable to worsening health care conditions. A rapid assessment was conducted to better understand how the delivery and utilization of routine RMNCH services may have been affected by the extraordinary strain placed on the health system and its client population by the Ebola outbreak in Guinea.
Methods: Data were collected January-February 2015 in a convenience sample of public and private facilities in areas of the country that were Ebola active, calm and inactive. Monthly data on a number of RMNCH services were collected by facility record abstraction for the period from October 1, 2013 through December 31, 2014. Structured interviews were also held with facility directors and RMNCH service providers.
Results: Data on RMNCH services from forty five public facilities were obtained. A statistically significant decline of 31% was seen in outpatient visits between October-December 2013 (before the Ebola outbreak) and October-December 2014 (the advanced stage of the Ebola outbreak). Service declines appeared to be greater in hospitals compared to health centers. Child health services were more affected by the Ebola epidemic than other assessed health areas. For example, the number of children under five seen for diarrhea and Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) showed a large decrease over the one-year period in both hospitals (60% for diarrhea and 58% for ARI) and health centers (25% and 23%, respectively). Results also suggest that the negative effects on service availability (such as reduced hours, closures, and service suspensions) are likely to be regional and/or facility-specific. Providers reported a number of improved infection control behaviors as a result of the Ebola outbreak, including more frequent hand-washing and the use of disinfectants. Nevertheless, 30% of interviewed staff had not received any training on Ebola infection control.
Discussion: Although there may be differences in RMNCH service delivery and availability in selected versus non-selected facilities, a large number of indicators were assessed in order to provide needed information on the effects of the Ebola crisis on routine RMNCH service delivery and uptake in Guinea. This information is an important and timely contribution to ongoing efforts to understand and respond to the adverse effects of the Ebola crisis on essential RMNCH services in Guinea.