COVID-19 and resilience of healthcare systems in ten countries

Declines in health service use during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could have important effects on population health. In this study, we used an interrupted time series design to assess the immediate effect of the pandemic on 31 health services in two low-income (Ethiopia and Haiti), six middle-income (Ghana, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa and Thailand) and high-income (Chile and South Korea) countries. Despite efforts to maintain health services, disruptions of varying magnitude and duration were found in every country, with no clear patterns by country income group or pandemic intensity. Disruptions in health services often preceded COVID-19 waves. Cancer screenings, TB screening and detection and HIV testing were most affected (26–96% declines). Total outpatient visits declined by 9–40% at national levels and remained lower than predicted by the end of 2020. Maternal health services were disrupted in approximately half of the countries, with declines ranging from 5% to 33%. Child vaccinations were disrupted for shorter periods, but we estimate that catch-up campaigns might not have reached all children missed. By contrast, provision of antiretrovirals for HIV was not affected. By the end of 2020, substantial disruptions remained in half of the countries. Preliminary data for 2021 indicate that disruptions likely persisted. Although a portion of the declines observed might result from decreased needs during lockdowns (from fewer infectious illnesses or injuries), a larger share likely reflects a shortfall of health system resilience. Countries must plan to compensate for missed healthcare during the current pandemic and invest in strategies for better health system resilience for future emergencies.

Has Latin America achieved universal health coverage yet? Lessons from four countries

Background
Seven years after the commitment to United Nations’ call for Universal Health Coverage, healthcare services in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico are generally accessible and affordable; but they still struggle to meet population health demands and address the rising health care costs. We aim to describe measures taken by these four countries to commit by Universal Health Coverage, addressing their barriers and challenges.

Methods
Scoping literature review, supplemented with targeted stakeholders survey.

Results
The four countries analysed achieved an overall index of essential coverage of 76–77%, and households out of pocket health expenditures fall below 25%. Services coverage was improved by expanding access to primary healthcare systems and coverage for non-communicable diseases, while provided community outreach by the increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers. New pharmaceutical support programs provided access to treatments for chronic conditions at zero cost, while high-costs drugs and cancer treatments were partially guaranteed. However, the countries lack with effective financial protection mechanisms, that continue to increase out of pocket expenditure as noted by lowest financial protection scores, and lack of effective financial mechanisms besides cash transfers.

Conclusions
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico have made progress towards UHC. Although, better financial protection is urgently required.

Management of Soft-Tissue Coverage of Open Tibia Fractures in Latin America: Techniques, Timing, and Resources

Purpose
This study examined soft-tissue coverage techniques of open tibia fractures, described soft-tissue treatment patterns across income groups, and determined resource accessibility and availability in Latin America.

Methods
A 36-question survey was distributed to orthopaedic surgeons in Latin America through two networks: national orthopaedic societies and the Asociación de Cirujanos Traumatólogos de las Américas (ACTUAR). Demographic information was collected, and responses were stratified by income groups: high-income countries (HICs) and middle-income countries (MICs).

Results
The survey was completed by 469 orthopaedic surgeons, representing 19 countries in Latin America (2 HICs and 17 MICs). Most respondents were male (89%), completed residency training (96%), and were fellowship-trained (71%). Only 44% of the respondents had received soft-tissue training. Respondents (77%) reported a strong interest in attending a soft-tissue training course. Plastic surgeons were more commonly the primary providers for Gustilo Anderson (GA) Type IIIB injuries in HICs than in MICs (100% vs. 47%, p<0.01) and plastic surgeons were more available (<24 hours of patient presentation to the hospital) in HICs than MICs (63% vs. 26%, p=0.05), demonstrating statistically significant differences. In addition, respondents in HICs performed free flaps more commonly than in MICs for proximal third (55% vs. 18%, p<0.01), middle third (36% vs. 9%, p=0.02), and distal third (55% vs. 10%, p<0.01) lower extremity wounds. Negative Pressure Wound Therapy (NPWT or Wound VAC) was the only resource available to more than half of the respondents. Though not statistically significant, surgeons reported having more access to plastic surgeons at their institutions in HICs than MICs (91% vs. 62%, p=0.12) and performed microsurgical flaps more commonly at their respective institutions (73% vs. 42%, p=0.06).

Conclusions
The study demonstrated that most orthopaedic surgeons in Latin America have received no soft-tissue training; that HICs and MICs have different access to plastic surgeons and different expectations for flap type and definitive coverage timing; and that most respondents had limited access to necessary soft-tissue coverage surgical resources. Further investigation into differences in the clinical outcomes related to soft-tissue coverage methods and protocols can provide additional insight into the importance of timing and access to specialists.

Western Honduras Copán Population–Based Cancer Registry: Initial Estimates and a Model for Rural Central America

PURPOSE
Population-based cancer registries (PBCRs) are critical for national cancer control planning, yet few low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have quality PBCRs. The Central America Four region represents the principal LMIC region in the Western hemisphere. We describe the establishment of a PBCR in rural Western Honduras with first estimates for the 2013-2017 period.

METHODS
The Western Honduras PBCR was established through a collaboration of academic institutions and the Honduras Ministry of Health for collection of incident cancer data from public and private health services. Data were recorded using the Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) web-based platform with data monitoring and quality checks. Crude and age-standardized rates (ASRs) were calculated at the regional level, following WHO methodology.

RESULTS
The web-based platform for data collection, available ancillary data services (eg, endoscopy), and technical support from international centers (United States and Colombia) were instrumental for quality control. Crude cancer incidence rates were 112.2, 69.8, and 154.6 per 100,000 habitants overall, males, and females, respectively (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer). The adjusted ASRs were 84.2, 49.6, and 118.9 per 100,000 overall habitants, males, and females, respectively. The most common sites among men were stomach (ASR 26.0, 52.4%), colorectal (ASR 5.11, 10.15%), and prostate (ASR 2.7, 5.4%). The most common sites in women were cervix (ASR 34.2, 36.7%), breast (ASR 11.2, 12.3%), and stomach (ASR 10.8, 11.7%).

CONCLUSION
The Copán-PBCR represents a successful model to develop cancer monitoring in rural LMICs. Innovations included the use of the REDCap platform and leverage of Health Ministry resources. This provides the first PBCR data for Honduras and the Central America Four and confirms that infection-driven cancers, such as gastric and cervical, should be priority targets for cancer control initiatives.

Leadership development for orthopaedic trauma surgeons in Latin America: opportunities for and barriers to skill acquisition

Introduction:
There is growing interest in leadership courses for physicians. Few opportunities are available in global regions with limited resources. This study describes orthopaedic trauma surgeons’ desired leadership skill acquisition, opportunities, and barriers to course participation in Latin America.

Methods:
Latin American orthopaedic trauma surgeons from the Asociación de Cirujanos Traumatólogos de las Americas (ACTUAR) network were surveyed. This survey solicited and gauged the surgeons’ level of interest in leadership topics and their relative importance utilizing a 5-point Likert-scale. Additionally, comparisons were calculated between middle-income countries (MICs) and high-income countries (HICs) to ascertain if needs were different between groups. The survey included demographic information, nationality, level of training, years in practice, leadership position, needs assessment, and perceived barriers for leadership educational opportunities.

Results:
One hundred forty-four orthopaedic surgeons completed the survey, representing 18 countries across Latin America; 15 MICs and 3 HICs. Participants had more than 20 years in practice (49%) and held leadership positions (81%) in hospital settings (62%), national orthopaedic societies (45%), and/or clinical settings (40%). Sixty-three percent had never attended a leadership course due to lack of opportunities/invitations (69%), difficulty missing work (24%), and costs (21%). Ninety-seven percent expressed interest in attending a leadership course. No difference in needs was determined between respondents from MICs and HICs. Professional Ethics, Crisis Management/Organizational Change Management, and High Performing Team-Building were identified as the most important leadership topics.

Conclusion:
Orthopaedic surgeons in Latin America demonstrate an interest in acquiring additional leadership skills but have few opportunities. Identifying interests, knowledge gaps, and core competencies can guide the development of such opportunities.

Mixed Methods Evaluation of Simulation-Based Training for Postpartum Hemorrhage Management in Guatemala

Background
To assess if simulation-based training (SBT) of B-lynch suture and uterine balloon tamponade (UBT) for the management of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) impacted provider attitudes, practice patterns, and patient management in Guatemala, using a mixed-methods approach.

Methods
We conducted an in-country SBT course on the management of PPH in a governmental teaching hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Participants were OB/GYN providers (n = 39) who had or had not received SBT before. Surveys and qualitative interviews evaluated provider knowledge and experiences with B-lynch and UBT to treat PPH. In addition, a retrospective chart review was performed to evaluate management of PPH over a 2-year period before and after the introduction of SBT.

Results
Multiple-choice surveys indicated that providers who received SBT were more comfortable performing and teaching B-lynch compared to those who did not (p = 0.003 and 0.005). Qualitative interviews revealed increased provider comfort with B-lynch compared to UBT and identified multiple barriers to uterine balloon tamponade implementation. Chart review demonstrated an increased use of UBT after the introduction of simulation-based training, though not statistically significant (p = 0.06) in contrast to no change in B-lynch use.

Conclusions
Simulation-based training had a stronger impact on provider comfort with B-lynch compared to uterine balloon tamponade. Qualitative interviews provided insight into the challenges that hinder uptake of uterine balloon tamponade, namely resource limitations and decision-making hierarchies. Capturing data through a mixed-methods approach allowed for more comprehensive program evaluation in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

Barriers to Trauma Care in South and Central America: a systematic review

Introduction
Trauma is widespread in Central and South America and is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. Providing high quality emergency trauma care is of great importance. Understanding the barriers to care is challenging; this systematic review aims to establish current the current challenges and barriers in providing high-quality trauma care within the 21 countries in the region.

Methods
OVID Medline, Embase, EBM reviews and Global Health databases were systematically searched in October 2020. Records were screened by two independent researchers. Data were extracted according to a predetermined proforma. Studies of any type, published in the preceding decade were included, excluding grey literature and non-English records. Trauma was defined as blunt or penetrating injury from an external force. Studies were individually critically appraised and assessed for bias using the RTI item bank.

Results
57 records met the inclusion criteria. 20 countries were covered at least once. Nine key barriers were identified: training (37/57), resources and equipment (33/57), protocols (29/57), staffing (17/57), transport and logistics (16/57), finance (15/57), socio-cultural (13/57), capacity (9/57), public education (4/57).

Conclusion
Nine key barriers negatively impact on the provision of high-quality trauma care and highlight potential areas for improving care in Central & South America. Many countries in the region, along with rural areas, are under-represented by the current literature and future research is urgently required to assess barriers to trauma management in these countries.

Improving the experience of facility-based delivery for vulnerable women through obstetric care navigation: a qualitative evaluation

Background
Global disparities in maternal mortality could be reduced by universal facility delivery. Yet, deficiencies in the quality of care prevent some mothers from seeking facility-based obstetric care. Obstetric care navigators (OCNs) are a new form of lay health workers that combine elements of continuous labor support and care navigation to promote obstetric referrals. Here we report qualitative results from the pilot OCN project implemented in Indigenous villages in the Guatemalan central highlands.

Methods
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 mothers who received OCN accompaniment and 13 staff—namely physicians, nurses, and social workers—of the main public hospital in the pilot’s catchment area (Chimaltenango). Interviews queried OCN’s impact on patient and hospital staff experience and understanding of intended OCN roles. Audiorecorded interviews were transcribed, coded, and underwent content analysis.

Results
Maternal fear of surgical intervention, disrespectful and abusive treatment, and linguistic barriers were principal deterrents of care seeking. Physicians and nurses reported cultural barriers, opposition from family, and inadequate hospital resources as challenges to providing care to Indigenous mothers. Patient and hospital staff identified four valuable services offered by OCNs: emotional support, patient advocacy, facilitation of patient-provider communication, and care coordination. While patients and most physicians felt that OCNs had an overwhelmingly positive impact, nurses felt their effort would be better directed toward traditional nursing tasks.

Conclusions
Many barriers to maternity care exist for Indigenous mothers in Guatemala. OCNs can improve mothers’ experiences in public hospitals and reduce limitations faced by providers. However, broader buy-in from hospital staff—especially nurses—appears critical to program success. Future research should focus on measuring the impact of obstetric care navigation on key clinical outcomes (cesarean delivery) and mothers’ future care seeking behavior.

Short-term general, gynecologic, orthopedic, and pediatric surgical mission trips in Nicaragua: A cost-effectiveness analysis

Background Short-term surgical missions facilitated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may be a possible platform for cost-effective international global surgical efforts. The objective of this study is to determine if short-term surgical mission trips provided by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Esperança to Nicaragua from 2016 to 2020 are cost-effective.
Methods Using a provider perspective, the costs of implementing the surgical trips were collected via Esperança’s previous trip reports. The reports and patient data were analyzed to determine disability-adjusted life years averted from each surgical procedure provided in Nicaragua from 2016-2020. Average cost-effectiveness ratios for each surgical trip specialty were calculated to determine the average cost of averting one disability adjusted life year.
Results Esperança’s surgical missions’ program in Nicaragua from 2016 to 2020 was found to be cost-effective, with pediatric and gynecology surgical specialties being highly cost-effective and general and orthopedic surgical specialties being moderately cost-effective. These results were echoed in both scenarios of the sensitivity analysis, except for the orthopedic specialty which was found to not be cost-effective when testing an increased discount rate.
Conclusions The cost-effectiveness of short-term surgical missions provided by NGOs can be cost-effective, but limitations include inconsistent data from a societal perspective and lack of an appropriate counterfactual. Future studies should examine the capacity for NGOs to collect adequate data and conduct rigorous economic evaluations

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Oncology Clinical Research in Latin America (LACOG 0420)

PURPOSE
COVID-19 has affected cancer care worldwide. Clinical trials are an important alternative for the treatment of oncologic patients, especially in Latin America, where trials can be the only opportunity for some of them to access novel and, sometimes, standard treatments.

METHODS
This was a cross-sectional study, in which a 22-question survey regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oncology clinical trials was sent to 350 representatives of research programs in selected Latin American institutions, members of the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group.

RESULTS
There were 90 research centers participating in the survey, with 70 of them from Brazil. The majority were partly private or fully private (n = 77; 85.6%) and had confirmed COVID-19 cases at the institution (n = 57; 63.3%). Accruals were suspended at least for some studies in 80% (n = 72) of the responses, mostly because of sponsors’ decision. Clinical trials’ routine was affected by medical visits cancelation, reduction of patients’ attendance, reduction of other specialties’ availability, and/or alterations on follow-up processes. Formal COVID-19 mitigation policies were adopted in 96.7% of the centers, including remote monitoring and remote site initiation visits, telemedicine visits, reduction of research team workdays or home office, special consent procedures, shipment of oral drugs directly to patients’ home, and increase in outpatient diagnostic studies. Importantly, some of these changes were suggested to be part of future oncology clinical trials’ routine, particularly the ones regarding remote methods, such as telemedicine.

CONCLUSION
To our knowledge, this was the first survey to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on Latin American oncology clinical trials. The results are consistent with surveys from other world regions. These findings may endorse improvements in clinical trials’ processes and management in the postpandemic period.