Healthcare trajectories and obstacles faced by women in a health region in Northeast Brazil

Abstract: The article aims to assess organization and access to the Healthcare Network in a health region, from the perspective of female users. Healthcare trajectories were constructed for women with high-grade cervical squamous intraepithelial lesions, covered by different modalities of primary health care (PHC) in urban and rural areas, in municipalities in the interior, and in the capital city of the Northeast health region, Brazil. Women used PHC as their regular service for prevention and care, but reported barriers to access to medical appointments, especially in rural areas. Positive assessments were associated with positive reception by the health service and representation of the basic health unit or family health unit as the available locus for care. A perception of low case-resolution capacity in PHC was associated with delays in scheduling referrals, irregular/insufficient supply of medicines, and physician turnover. Women reported difficulty in access to specialized care, especially in municipalities in the interior, with the use of public and private services. All the users in the capital city of the health region underwent confirmatory diagnostic tests and surgeries in the Brazilian Unified National Health System (SUS). Support from family members, friends, and local politicians were part of the healthcare trajectories. Interprofessional communication was nearly non-existent and health professional-patient communication was precarious. The regionalized network appeared disconnected and with confusing flows in terms of guaranteeing timely access for users in municipalities in the interior and with additional difficulties for those in rural areas, even in the capital city, revealing incompleteness in regional arrangements and persistence of inter- and intra-municipal inequalities in access.