BMC Health Serv Res. 2015 Dec 17;15:562.

Costs of postabortion care in public sector health facilities in Malawi: a cross-sectional survey

Benson J, Gebreselassie H, Mañibo MA, Raisanen K, Johnston HB, Mhango C and Levandowski BA

Abstract

Background: Health systems could obtain substantial cost savings by providing safe abortion care rather than providing expensive treatment for complications of unsafely performed abortions. This study estimates current health system costs of treating unsafe abortion complications and compares these findings with newly projected costs for providing safe abortion in Malawi.

Methods: We conducted in-depth surveys of medications, supplies, and time spent by clinical personnel dedicated to postabortion care (PAC) for three treatment categories (simple, severe non-surgical, and severe surgical complications) and three uterine evacuation (UE) procedure types (manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), dilation and curettage (D&C) and misoprostol-alone) at 15 purposively-selected public health facilities. Per-case treatment costs were calculated and applied to national, annual PAC caseload data.

Results: The median cost per D&C case ($63) was 29% higher than MVA treatment ($49). Costs to treat severe non-surgical complications ($63) were almost five times higher than those of a simple PAC case ($13). Severe surgical complications were especially costly to treat at $128. PAC treatment in public facilities cost an estimated $314,000 annually. Transition to safe, legal abortion would yield an estimated cost reduction of 20%-30%.

Conclusions: The method of UE and severity of complications have a large impact on overall costs. With a liberalized abortion law and implementation of induced abortion services with WHO-recommended UE methods, current PAC costs to the health system could markedly decrease.

Comment: Like the previous paper from Zambia, this study from Malawi tells us that providing safe abortion, in addition to the health benefits, also makes economic sense. (HMV)