Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine COVID-19 seminar series: COVID and surgical, anesthetic and obstetric care

On May 21, 2020, the Harvard Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) hosted a webinar as part of the Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine’s COVID-19 webinar series. The goal of PGSSC’s virtual webinar was to share the experiences of surgical, anesthesia, and obstetric (SAO) providers on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic, from both high-income countries (HICs), such as the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Providers shared not only their experiences delivering SAO care during this global pandemic, but also solutions and innovations they and their colleagues developed to address these new challenges. Additionally, the seminar explored the relationship between surgery and health system strengthening and pandemic preparedness, and outlined the way forward, including a roadmap for prioritization and investment in surgical system strengthening. Throughout the discussion, other themes emerged as well, such as the definition of elective surgery and its implications during a persistent global pandemic, the safe and ethical reintroduction of surgical services, and the social inequities exposed by the stress placed on health systems by COVID-19. These proceedings document the perspectives shared by participants through their invited lectures as well as through the panel discussion at the end of the seminar.

Job Satisfaction and Its Determinants among Nurse Anesthetists in Clinical Practice: The Botswana Experience

Job satisfaction (JS) correlates positively with patients’ satisfaction and outcomes and employees’ well-being. In Botswana, the level of job satisfaction and its determinants among nurse anesthetists were not investigated. A cross-sectional study was conducted from January 2020 to June 2020 encompassing all nurse anesthetists in clinical practice in Botswana. A self-administered questionnaire was used that incorporated demographic data, reasons to stay on or leave their job, and a validated 20-item short form of the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire which was pretested on five of our nurse anesthetists. Percentage is used to describe the data. The independence of categorical variables was examined using chi-square or Fisher’s exact test. value <0.05 was considered statistically significant. In Botswana, a total of 76 nurse anesthetists were in clinical practice during the study period. Sixty-six (86.9%) responded to the survey. Gender distribution was even, 50.0%. The overall JS was 36.4%. Males had significantly higher JS than females, . Significantly higher job satisfaction was found in married nurse anesthetists (), expatriate nurse anesthetists (), nurse anesthetists in non-referral hospitals (), and nurse anesthetists with ≥10 years’ experience (). Nurse anesthetists were satisfied with security, social service, authority, ability utilization, and responsibility in ≥60.0% of the cases. They were not satisfied in compensation, working condition, and advancement in a similar percentage. The main reason to stay on their job was to serve the public in 68.2%. In Botswana, employers should make an effort to address the working conditions, compensation, and advancement of nurse anesthetists in clinical practice.

ERAS Society Recommendations for Improving Perioperative Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries Through Implementation of Existing Tools and Programs: An Urgent Need for the Surgical Safety Checklist and Enhanced Recovery After Surgery

The Lancet Commission and Global Surgery Foundation in 2015 highlighted the need for access to safe and affordable surgical and anesthetic care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) [1]. Patients that do have access to care in LMICs, however, have a higher risk of complications and mortality than in high-income countries (HICs). Ninety-six percent of all perioperative deaths worldwide occur in LMICs, and the economic impact of this is a staggering 2.6% of the combined gross domestic product of LMICs [1]. Although it is a common belief that the greatest contributors to adverse outcomes in LMICs are poor access to care and late presentation, deficits in the quality of accessible care are a substantial concern.

Following the Lancet Commission and the World Health Assembly Resolution 68.15, all member countries committed to developing a National, Surgical, Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plan (NSOAP) to assist in improving access to safe surgery and anesthesia [1]. The missing link in the NSOAP strategy is support for the implementation of standardized, evidence-based perioperative care guidelines and tools to measure guideline compliance and outcomes. This is crucial not only because of the need to improve perioperative care but as access to safe surgery and anesthesia improves, there is likely to be increased patient volume and pressure on the healthcare system to provide quality surgical care. A new set of tools need not be developed to improve perioperative care in LMICs. These tools already exist with evidence for their effectiveness. The Surgical Safety Checklist (SSC) and Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Program are two examples [2, 3]. Barriers to acceptance, adoption, and implementation of existing tools present the greatest hurdles that must be overcome to improve perioperative outcomes in LMICs.

The SSC is a communication tool used by the surgical team to confirm that appropriate actions are taken in the perioperative period to maintain patient safety. At the same time, the three pause points within the checklist include conversation prompts to ensure there is a shared understanding between the surgical team members. The SSC was designed to optimize its effectiveness in LMICs with a focus on influencing globally relevant outcomes using recommendations that are applicable and supported by the resources in LMICs. As a result, the use of the SSC has been shown to significantly reduce perioperative morbidity and mortality in LMICs as well as in HIC settings, and its impact may be larger when implemented well in LMICs [2].

Despite evidence of effectiveness, the acceptance and adoption of the SSC remain poor in LMICs with ranges between 20 and 40% when compared with facilities in HIC where rates of adoption range between 80 and 95% [4]. The reasons for this failed penetrance relate to a lack of resources and infrastructure for initial and ongoing implementation and audits and surgical hierarchies that may not support aspects of the SSC, such as encouraging all members of the team to vocalize concerns if they exist. The barriers to successful implementation are further exacerbated by checklist fatigue and similar factors that also lead to decreased meaningful use in HICs. The need for improved implementation of the SSC in LMICs has been recognized by global health organizations. With this increased focus on quality and safety initiatives and implementation, it is time to consider other strategies for improvement.

ERAS is another tool that has the potential to benefit LMICs with strategies that have demonstrated benefits across a variety of settings and clinical outcomes [3]. The ERAS program is based on implementation of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines performed by a multidisciplinary perioperative team, using tools to monitor and evaluate compliance to the guidelines and patient outcomes concurrently. Randomized trials of ERAS-based care vs traditional care conducted in HICs have shown a significant reduction in length of stay (20–40%) and complications (20–30%). Cost studies of ERAS have demonstrated a return-on-investment ratio up to 7.3 (i.e., a savings of $7.3 for every $1 invested), showing that ERAS is value-based surgery [3].

There are few established ERAS programs in LMICs, however, data from these centers demonstrate similar benefits to HICs [5]. Whether these benefits can be achieved at scale remains unknown, and the crux of the issue relates to how ERAS is applied in tertiary-university centers in LMICs compared to the district and regional levels. ERAS guidelines in their current format are specialty-specific, predominantly for elective procedures, and thus likely to be easily implemented in tertiary-university LMIC hospitals, which have similar subspecialty units. The implementation in these units will have the added benefit of facilitating the teaching and training of all perioperative team members.

The greatest unmet surgical and anesthetic need is, however, at the district and regional level in LMICs [1]. Unlike tertiary hospitals, surgery in these centers is often performed on an emergency basis by surgeons with no sub-specialty training. To address this gap, the ERAS® Society, in partnership with the World Bank and perioperative leaders in LMICs, has undertaken the development of a generic perioperative ERAS® Society guideline for elective and emergency surgery. This approach will integrate the SSC and be applied to patients undergoing a variety of operations including general and obstetrical surgery. These practices will focus on key ERAS measures such as patient education/engagement, avoidance of opioids and prolonged fasting, early mobilization, and early feeding. In addition to these guidelines, the ERAS® Society and World Bank are developing a tailored implementation program and monitoring tool to assess guideline compliance and patient outcomes specifically targeted to LMICs.

ERAS and the SSC share a similar quality that makes them well-suited for adoption in poorly resourced settings—that is their adaptability. Both tools are designed to be tailored to suit the context in which they will be adopted. Combining the NSOAP strategy with existing tools such as SSC and ERAS have the potential to provide a platform to improve the quality of surgical care in LMICs with improved patient outcomes and service efficiency, at scale, rapidly and make a significant contribution to addressing the unmet surgical and anesthetic need in LMICs.

Estimating the Specialist Surgical Workforce Density in South Africa

Background: South Africa is an upper middle-income country with inequitable access to healthcare. There is a maldistribution of doctors between the private and public sectors, the latter which serves 86% of the population but has less than half of the human resources.

Objective: The objective of this study was to estimate the specialist surgical workforce density in South Africa.

Methods: This was a retrospective record-based review of the specialist surgical workforce in South Africa as defined by registration with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa for three cadres: 1) surgeons, and 2) anaesthesiologists, and 3) obstetrician/gynaecologists (OBGYN).

Findings: The specialist surgical workforce in South Africa doubled from 2004 (N = 2956) to 2019 (N = 6144). As of December 2019, there were 3096 surgeons (50.4%), 1268 (20.6%) OBGYN, and 1780 (29.0%) anaesthesiologists. The specialist surgical workforce density in 2019 was 10.5 per 100,000 population which ranged from 1.8 in Limpopo and 22.8 per 100,000 in Western Cape province. The proportion of females and those classified other than white increased between 2004–2019.

Conclusion: South Africa falls short of the minimum specialist workforce density of 20 per 100,000 to provide adequate essential and emergency surgical care. In order to address the current and future burden of disease treatable by surgical care, South Africa needs a robust surgical healthcare system with adequate human resources, to translate healthcare services into improved health outcomes.

Shock index as a prognosticator for emergent surgical intervention and mortality in trauma patients in Johannesburg: A retrospective cohort study

Introduction
Trauma is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide with exsanguination being the primary preventable cause through early surgical intervention. We assessed two popular trauma scoring systems, injury severity scores (ISS) and shock index (SI) to determine the optimal cut off values that may predict the need for emergent surgical intervention (ESI) and in-hospital mortality.

Methods
A retrospective analysis of patient records from a tertiary hospital’s trauma unit for the year 2019 was done. Descriptive statistics, univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed. Receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was conducted and area under the curve (AUC) reported for predicting the need for ESI in all study participants, as well as in patients with penetrating injuries alone, based on continuous variables of ISS, SI or a combination of ISS and SI. The Youdin Index was applied to determine the optimal ISS and SI cut off values.

Results
A total of 1964 patients’ records were included, 89.0% were male and the median age (IQR) was 30 (26–37) years. Penetrating injuries accounted for 65.9% of all injuries. ISS and SI were higher in the ESI group with median (IQR) 11 (10–17) and 0.74 (0.60–0.95), respectively. The overall mortality rate was 4.5%. The optimal cut-off values for ESI and mortality by ISS (AUC) were 9 (0.74) and 12 (0.86) (p = 0.0001), with optimal values for SI (AUC) being 0.72 (0.60), and 0.91 (0.68) (p = 0.0001), respectively.

Strategies for Improving Quality and Safety in Global Health: Lessons From Nontechnical Skills for Surgery Implementation in Rwanda

In 2015 the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery published its report “Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development,”1 helping to galvanize a global movement to increase access to safe, timely, and affordable surgical and anesthesia care with an emphasis on equity. A goal of the movement is to enable the benefits of these efforts to be reaped most by impoverished and marginalized populations. The authors laid out 5 key messages, including the great number of operations required annually (approximately 143 million), especially among the poorest third of the world’s population, which receives only 6% of the operations. The commission called on nations to track and report on 6 metrics related to surgical care. Two of these metrics—surgeon, anesthetist, and obstetric (SAO) density (the number of specialist surgical, anesthetic, and obstetric providers per 100,000 population) and surgical volume (number of operations performed in operating rooms annually per 100,000 population)—are measurements …

Evaluating the effect of interventions for strengthening non-physician anesthetists’ education in Ethiopia: a pre- and post-evaluation study

Background
Access to safe surgery has been recognized as an indispensable component of universal health coverage. A competent anesthesia workforce is a prerequisite for safe surgical care. In Ethiopia, non-physician anesthetists are the main anesthesia service providers. The Government of Ethiopia implemented a program intervention to improve the quality of non-physician anesthetists’ education, which included faculty development, curricula strengthening, student support, educational resources, improved infrastructure and upgraded regulations. This study aimed to assess changes following the implementation of this program.

Methods
A pre-and post-evaluation design was employed to evaluate improvement in the quality of non-physician anesthetists’ education. A 10-station objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) was administered to graduating class anesthetists of 2016 (n = 104) to assess changes in competence from a baseline study performed in 2013 (n = 122). Moreover, a self-administered questionnaire was used to collect data on students’ perceptions of the learning environment.

Results
The overall competence score of 2016 graduates was significantly higher than the 2013 class (65.7% vs. 61.5%, mean score difference = 4.2, 95% CI = 1.24–7.22, p < 0.05). Although we found increases in competence scores for 6 out of 10 stations, the improvement was statistically significant for three tasks only (pre-operative assessment, postoperative complication, and anesthesia machine check). Moreover, the competence score in neonatal resuscitation declined significantly from baseline (from 74.4 to 68.9%, mean score difference = − 5.5, 95% CI = -10.5 to − 0.5, p  0.05 in favor of females), and female students scored better in some stations. Student perceptions of the learning environment improved significantly for almost all items, with the largest percentage point increase in the availability of instructors from 38.5 to 70.2% (OR = 3.76, 95% CI = 2.15–6.55, p < 0.05).

Conclusion
The results suggest that the quality of non-physician anesthetists’ education has improved. Stagnation in competence scores of some stations and student perceptions of the simulated learning environment require specific attention.

Access to pediatric surgery delivered by general surgeons and anesthesia providers in Uganda: Results from 2 rural regional hospitals

Background
Significant limitations in pediatric surgical capacity exist in low- and middle-income countries, especially in rural regions. Recent global children’s surgical guidelines suggest training and support of general surgeons in rural regional hospitals as an effective approach to increasing pediatric surgical capacity.

Methods
Two years of a prospective clinical database of children’s surgery admissions at 2 regional referral hospitals in Uganda were reviewed. Primary outcomes included case volume and clinical outcomes of children at each hospital. Additionally, the disability-adjusted life-years averted by delivery of pediatric surgical services at these hospitals were calculated. Using a value of statistical life calculation, we also estimated the economic benefit of the pediatric surgical care currently being delivered.

Results
From 2016 to 2019, more than 300 surgical procedures were performed at each hospital per year. The majority of cases were standard general surgery cases including hernia repairs and intussusception as well as procedures for surgical infections and trauma. In-hospital mortality was 2.4% in Soroti and 1% in Lacor. Pediatric surgical capacity at these hospitals resulted in over 12,400 disability-adjusted life-years averted/year. This represents an estimated economic benefit of 10.2 million US dollars/year to the Ugandan society.

Conclusion
This investigation demonstrates that lifesaving pediatric procedures are safely performed by general surgeons in Uganda. General surgeons who perform pediatric surgery significantly increase surgical access to rural regions of the country and add a large economic benefit to Ugandan society. Overall, the results of the study support increasing pediatric surgical capacity in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries through support and training of general surgeons and anesthesia providers.

Qualities of Effective Vital Anaesthesia Simulation Training Facilitators Delivering Simulation-Based Education in Resource-Limited Settings

BACKGROUND:
Lack of access to safe and affordable anesthesia and surgical care is a major contributor to avoidable death and disability across the globe. Effective education initiatives are a viable mechanism to address critical skill and process gaps in perioperative teams. Vital Anaesthesia Simulation Training (VAST) aims to overcome barriers limiting widespread application of simulation-based education (SBE) in resource-limited environments, providing immersive, low-cost, multidisciplinary SBE and simulation facilitator training. There is a dearth of knowledge regarding the factors supporting effective simulation facilitation in resource-limited environments. Frameworks evaluating simulation facilitation in high-income countries (HICs) are unlikely to fully assess the range of skills required by simulation facilitators working in resource-limited environments. This study explores the qualities of effective VAST facilitators; knowledge gained will inform the design of a framework for assessing simulation facilitators working in resource-limited contexts and promote more effective simulation faculty development.

METHODS:
This qualitative study used in-depth interviews to explore VAST facilitators’ perspectives on attributes and practices of effective simulation in resource-limited settings. Twenty VAST facilitators were purposively sampled and consented to be interviewed. They represented 6 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and 3 HICs. Interviews were conducted using a semistructured interview guide. Data analysis involved open coding to inductively identify themes using labels taken from the words of study participants and those from the relevant literature.

RESULTS:
Emergent themes centered on 4 categories: Persona, Principles, Performance and Progression. Effective VAST facilitators embody a set of traits, style, and personal attributes (Persona) and adhere to certain Principles to optimize the simulation environment, maximize learning, and enable effective VAST Course delivery. Performance describes specific practices that well-trained facilitators demonstrate while delivering VAST courses. Finally, to advance toward competency, facilitators must seek opportunities for skill Progression.

Interwoven across categories was the finding that effective VAST facilitators must be cognizant of how context, culture, and language may impact delivery of SBE. The complexity of VAST Course delivery requires that facilitators have a sensitive approach and be flexible, adaptable, and open-minded. To progress toward competency, facilitators must be open to self-reflection, be mentored, and have opportunities for practice.

CONCLUSIONS:
The results from this study will help to develop a simulation facilitator evaluation tool that incorporates cultural sensitivity, flexibility, and a participant-focused educational model, with broad relevance across varied resource-limited environments.

Building an ecosystem of safe surgery and anesthesia through cleft care

Cleft lip and/or palate (CLP) is among the world’s most common congenital anomalies, affecting an estimated 1 in 700 live births. CLP can lead to a wide range of health problems, including feeding difficulties that contribute to malnutrition, oral health challenges, delays in speech and language development, and long-term emotional and physical health issues. Receiving timely high-quality cleft surgical and anesthesia care, in addition to a range of interdisciplinary health services, is critical to the health and development of children impacted by CLP.

Too often, however, whether a baby receives this essential treatment is dependent upon the city, country, or region in which they are born. The global burden of surgical disease is a significant and long-neglected area within global health that disproportionately affects low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) compared to high-income countries (HICs). The estimated 1.7 billion children who live without access to surgical care around the globe, including many with CLP, live with a greater risk of life-long disability and a higher risk of mortality.

Barriers to surgical care in LMICs include a lack of trained health-care providers, inadequate infrastructure, high out-of-pocket costs, and lack of political prioritization. Historically, short-term missions have sought to address the burden of surgical conditions such as CLP, but this short-term, siloed approach fails to address – and in many cases has only perpetuated – the systemic causes of global surgical inequity, which cuts across sectors, disciplines, and borders. As momentum for the prioritization of surgical care grows, it is also clear that outdated models must be replaced by approaches that strengthen the entire ecosystem of safe surgery and anesthesia car