The object of this article is to evaluate the effectiveness of the maternal death review (MDR) system and process in improving quality of maternal and newborn health care in northern Nigeria.
Methods: A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used, including review of MDR forms and of health management information system data on maternal deaths (MDs), as well as semi-structured interviews with members of 11 MDR committees.
Results: Facility-based MDRs were initiated in 75 emergency obstetric and newborn care facilities in northern Nigeria and were initially conducted in the 33 hospitals; however, the process stopped after some time and had to be revitalized. Main reasons were transfer of key members of MDR committees, lack of supportive supervision, and shortage of staff. Ninety-three (12.1%) of 768 identified MDs were recorded on MDR forms and 52 (6.7%) had been reviewed. MDRs resulted in improved quality of care, including mobilization of additional resources.
Challenges were fear of blame, shortage of staff, transfer of MDR team members, inadequate supportive supervision, and poor record keeping.
Conclusion: MDR requires teamwork, commitment, and champions at health facility level to spearhead the process. MDR needs to be institutionalized in the Ministry of Health, which provides oversight, policy guidance, and support, including supportive supervision.