This study assessed the quality of primary care in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, through preventable hospitalization rates (1995-2004). Preventable hospitalizations were defined as those related to the following diseases: diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and vaccine-preventable diseases (polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and measles). Men and women from 20 to 59 years of age were included in the study. The proportion of preventable causes among hospital admissions was higher for women than for men. From 1995 to 2004 there was a decrease in preventable hospitalization rates. Even after direct standardization, analysis showed that admission rates in Pelotas were lower than for the State of Rio Grande do Sul as a whole. Preventable hospitalization costs decreased in parallel with the drop in hospital admission rates. The decrease in hospitalizations is consistent with improvement in primary health care. However, the findings may result from the system's financial model. Reimbursement for hospital procedures is low, which could induce the hospitals to curtail admissions.
Quality of Health Care; Primary Health Care; Hospitalization; Health Services