“I am visiting my doctor’s office today to do my Pap smear – for the first time. If this service were not available in my home city, I would have to travel to Shtip or Strumica, cities 30 km away from my village. I have also learned from my family doctor that she is now providing contraception services and menopause consultations, services that I currently need. I can easily discuss any women health issues with my family doctor and feel free to share my concerns. She really understands me and builds my self-confidence. I really want to see these services continuing to be a part of my family doctor’s services and even expanded with others, such us ultrasound checkups. We, the women in this region, are facing challenges because of the lack of gynecologists, and having family doctors to take care of our reproductive health really makes a difference in our lives”.
These are the words of 39-year-old Emel from Konche, a village half an hour’s drive from Radovish. She has a 19-years-old daughter and both she and her daughter are patients of Dr. Jeliz who has been a family doctor in Radovish for 15 years.
Dr. Jeliz, who has come to understand firsthand the challenges and needs of women living in rural areas, was one of the 24 providers that were trained at the University Clinic of Obstetrics and Gynecology to deliver essential sexual and reproductive health services. This training was only one of the activities carried out as planned with the project “Family doctors – Partners in improving sexual and reproductive health” that HERA implemented together with the Family Medical Center and with support of the Japan Trust Fund.
Trained according to the accredited Practical Guide for family doctors in delivering basic SRH services that was developed by the Macedonian Association of Ob&Gyn and the Family Medical Center, she nowadays provides vaginal check-ups, PAP screening and STI/RTIs testing in the gynecological office in the local Medical center – one of the four fully equipped gynecological offices within the project, in four different cities.
As a result, in the period April – November 2022, a total of 2.777 women have obtained sexual and reproductive health services, 1.847 of them coming from socially vulnerable groups (Roma women, women from rural areas and women with disabilities). More than 2.600 contraception services were also provided to women, including counseling and distribution of free oral pills and condoms.
Summarizing the results as well as the best practices established with the project, this case study shows how the State can improve access to sexual and reproductive health services throughout the entire country which, in turn, positively affects the well-being of all women and girls. The case study is available here, only in English.