New research demonstrates a link between health care access and bribery on the African continent, with some people who say they’ve been forced to offer bribes in the past more than four times more likely to have problems getting care than those who say they’ve never had to pay a bribe.
The study is based on an Afrobarometer survey of 31,322 adults living in 32 sub-Saharan nations, and found that in the year it was taken (2014-2015) some 14 percent of the respondents had paid a bribe to access care at least once in the past year.
For those who had to pay such bribes often, the rate of difficulty in accessing care was as high as nine times more than those who said they never encounter bribery. The experience varies greatly among nations, with Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo showing rates as high as 50 percent while Mauritius and Botswana are as low as two and one percent, respectively.
The work from scientists at the Technical University of Berlin in Germany was published in the journal PLOS ONE in August. Previous research has focused on health care and institutional corruption in Africa, the authors said, but bribery as a different form of corruption within the medical system is less understood.
Amber Hsiao and her colleagues say the results suggest a significant barrier to health care because of bribery and urge more research in identifying strategies to prevent it.
“When patients in sub-Saharan Africa have to pay bribes for healthcare, they are much more likely to report difficulties in obtaining medical care,” they said. “Bribery at the point of care and its implications need to be better monitored and addressed in the quest to reach universal health coverage.”