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.

Firearm injuries among children due to the Kivu conflict from 2017 to 2020: A hospital-based retrospective descriptive cohort study

Introduction
Firearm-related injuries are deadly but avoidable. The case of Kivu, a region in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is alarming. Decades of unresolved regional conflicts birthed armed groups that have massacred inhabitants and injured several children. This regional instability has also created barriers to seeking and obtaining timely care, decreasing the survival rate. This region’s lack of data on paediatric fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries (F&NFFIs) needs studying. Thus, we aim to determine the prevalence and evaluate the outcomes of paediatric F&NFFIs in Kivu.

Methods
We included all F&NFFI paediatric patients (≤18 years), admitted at our institution between 2017 and 2020. We extracted data from patient records. Next, we assessed the relationship between determinants of paediatric outcomes using the Chi-square test and the student’s t-test. Confounders were identified using cox regression.

Results
This study included 101 paediatric patients, mostly male (63.4%), with an average age of 15.9 years residing 164.4 km on average from the hospital. On average, they were admitted 2.9 days post-injury, with the most affected anatomical regions being lower limbs (53.5%) and upper limbs (18.8%). The mean length of stay was 52.9 days, and the mortality rate was 4.0%. Also, injury complications increased the mean length of stay and mortality rate. In addition, mortality was correlated with circulatory failure and anaemia.

Discussion
Paediatric F&NFFIs in Eastern DRC is a preventable tragedy. Mortality is increased by injury complications and correlates with some biological factors. Prevention strategies should be developed to protect children and appropriate measures should be established to improve rates of prehospital care and early hospital presentation to lower mortality and improve paediatric outcomes.

Experiences of women seeking care for abortion complications in health facilities: Secondary analysis of the WHO Multi-Country Survey on Abortion in 11 African countries

Objective
Despite evidence of acute and long-term consequences of suboptimal experiences of care, standardized measurements across countries remain limited, particularly for postabortion care. We aimed to determine the proportion of women reporting negative experiences of care for abortion complications, identify risk factors, and assess the potential association with complication severity.

Methods
Data were sourced from the WHO Multi-Country Survey on Abortion for women who received facility-based care for abortion complications in 11 African countries. We measured women’s experiences of care with eight questions from an audio computer-assisted self-interview related to respect, communication, and support. Multivariable generalized estimating equations were used for analysis.

Results
There were 2918 women in the study sample and 1821 (62%) reported at least one negative experience of postabortion care. Participants who were aged under 30 years, single, of low socioeconomic status, and economically dependent had higher odds of negative experiences. Living in West or Central Africa, rather than East Africa, was also associated with reportedly worse care. The influence of complication severity on experience of care appeared significant, such that women with moderate and severe complications had 12% and 40% higher odds of reporting negative experiences, respectively.

Conclusion
There were widespread reports of negative experiences of care among women receiving treatment for abortion complications in health facilities. Our findings contribute to the scant understanding of the risk factors for negative experiences of postabortion care and highlight the need to address harmful provider biases and behaviors, alleviate health system constraints, and empower women in demanding better care.

Fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: a hospital-based retrospective descriptive cohort study assessing correlates of adult mortality

Introduction
The Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been the battleground for multiple armed conflicts, resulting in many fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries (F&NFFIs). Chronic insecurity has stressed the health system’s resources and created barriers to seeking, reaching, and receiving timely care further increasing the F&NFFI burden. Our institution is the largest trauma center in the region and receives the bulk of F&NFFI cases. We aimed to identify correlates of mortality in Congolese F&NFFI patients.

Methods
We included all F&NFFI patients admitted to our institution between 2017 and 2020. We extracted data from patient charts and admission logs. We identified mortality correlates using the two-sample t-test, Chi-square test, and multivariable regression analysis. A P-value of less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results
This study included 814 adult patients, mostly male (86%) with an average age of 34.5 years and living 154.4 km away from the hospital on average. The most affected anatomical sites were the lower limbs (48.2%) and upper limbs (23.2%). The median length of stay was 34.0 days, and the in-hospital mortality rate was 3.6%. In addition, mortality was negatively correlated with diastolic blood pressure (P = 0.01), SaO2 (P < 0.001), and hemoglobin concentration (P = 0.002).

Conclusion
F&NFFIs cause an enormous burden in the region, and mortality is correlated with some clinical and biological variables. Thus, the study findings will inform F&NFFI referral, triage, and management in low-resource and mass casualty settings.

Factors associated with hospital outcomes of patients with penetrating craniocerebral injuries in armed conflict areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a retrospective series

Introduction
Penetrating craniocerebral injuries (PCCI) are types of open head injuries caused by sharp objects or missiles, resulting in communication between the cranial cavity and the external environment. This condition is deemed to be more prevalent in armed conflict regions where both civilians and military are frequently assaulted on the head, but paradoxically their hospital outcomes are under-reported. We aimed to identify factors associated with poor hospital outcomes of patients with PCCI.

Methods
This was a retrospective series of patients admitted at the Regional Hospital of Bukavu, DRC, from 2010 to 2020. We retrieved medical records of patients with PCCI operated in the surgical departments. A multivariate logistic regression model was performed to find associations between patients’ admission clinico-radiological parameters and hospital outcomes. Poor outcome was defined as a Glasgow Outcomes Score below 4.

Results
The prevalence of PCCI was 9.1% (91/858 cases) among admitted TBI patients. More than one-third (36.2%) of patients were admitted with GCS < 13, and 40.6% of them were unstable hemodynamic. Hemiplegia was found in 23.1% on admission. Eight patients had an intracerebral hemorrhage. Among the 69 operated patients, complications, mainly infectious, occurred in half (50.7%) of patients. Poor hospital outcomes were observed in 30.4% and associated with an admission GCS < 13, hemodynamic instability, intracerebral hemorrhage, and hemiplegia (p < 0.05).

Conclusion
The hospital poor outcomes are observed when patients present with hemodynamic instability, an admission GCS < 13, intracerebral hemorrhage, and hemiplegia. There is a need for optimizing the initial care of patients with PCCI in armed conflict regions.

eHealth for service delivery in conflict: a narrative review of the application of eHealth technologies in contemporary conflict settings

The role of eHealth in conflict settings is increasingly important to address geographic, epidemiologic and clinical disparities. This study categorizes various forms of eHealth usage in conflict and aims to identify gaps in evidence to make recommendations for further research and practice. The analysis was carried out via a narrative hermeneutic review methodology. Articles that fulfilled the following screening criteria were reviewed: (1) describing an eHealth intervention in active conflict or ongoing insurgency, (2) an eHealth intervention targeting a conflict-affected population, (3) an e-learning platform for delivery in conflict settings and (4) non-interventional descriptive reviews relating to eHealth in conflict. Of the 489 papers eligible for screening, 46 merited final inclusion. Conflict settings described include Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Chechnya, Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thirty-six studies described specific eHealth initiatives, while the remainder were more generic review papers exploring general principles. Analysis resulted in the elucidation of three final categories of current eHealth activity in conflict-affected settings: (1) eHealth for clinical management, (2) e-learning for healthcare in conflict and (3) eHealth for information management in conflict. Obvious disparities in the distribution of technological dividends from eHealth in conflict are demonstrated by this review. Conflict-affected populations are predominantly subject to ad hoc and voluntary initiatives delivered by diaspora and civil society organizations. While the deployment of eHealth technologies in conflict settings is increasingly normalized, there is a need for further clarification of global norms relating to practice in this context.

Oxygen availability in sub-Saharan African countries: a call for data to inform service delivery

Oxygen is central to the management of patients admitted to hospital with severe COVID-19. Furthermore, the availability of oxygen therapy is just as important for the management of other patients who are acutely ill. However, despite recognition from most health-care providers that oxygen is a fundamental component of a health-care system, it has not been a focus of health-care delivery in sub-Saharan African countries, as shown by the lack of data collected on oxygen availability.

The mobile surgical outreach program for management of patients with genital fistula in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Objective
To describe components of the mobile surgical outreach (MSO) program as a model of care delivery for women with genital fistula; present program results; and discuss operational strengths and challenges.

Methods
A retrospective observational study of routinely collected health data from women treated via the MSO program (2013–2018). The program was developed at Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet the needs of women with fistula living in remote provinces, where travel is prohibited. It includes healthcare delivery, medico‐surgical training, and community sensitization components.

Results
The MSO team cared for 1517 women at 41 clinic sites across 18 provinces over the study period. Average age at presentation was 31 years (range, 1–81 years). Most women (n=1359, 89.6%) presented with vesicovaginal fistula. Most surgeries were successful, and few women reported residual incontinence postoperatively. Local teams were receptive and engaged in clinical skills training and public health education efforts.

Conclusion
The MSO program addresses the backlog of patients awaiting fistula surgery and provides a template for a national strategic plan to treat and ultimately end fistula in DRC. It offers a patient‐centered approach that brings medico‐surgical care and psychosocial support to women with fistula in their own communities.

Demand and capacity to integrate pelvic organ prolapse and genital fistula services in low-resource settings.

INTRODUCTION AND HYPOTHESIS:
There is a need for expanded access to safe surgical care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as illustrated by the report of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Global Surgery. Packages of closely-related surgical procedures may create platforms of capacity that maximize impact in LMIC. Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and genital fistula care provide an example. Although POP affects many more women in LMICs than fistula, donor support for fistula treatment in LMICs has been underway for decades, whereas treatment for POP is usually limited to hysterectomy-based surgical treatment, occurring with little to no donor support. This capacity-building discrepancy has resulted in POP care that is often non-adherent to international standards and in non-integration of POP and fistula services, despite clear areas of similarity and overlap. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility and potential value of integrating POP services at fistula centers.

METHODS:
Fistula repair sites supported by the Fistula Care Plus project were surveyed on current demand for and capacity to provide POP, in addition to perceptions about integrating POP and fistula repair services.

RESULTS:
Respondents from 26 hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia completed the survey. Most fistula centers (92%) reported demand for POP services, but many cannot meet this demand. Responses indicated a wide variation in assessment and grading practices for POP; approaches to lower urinary tract symptom evaluation; and surgical skills with regard to compartment-based POP, and urinary and rectal incontinence. Fistula surgeons identified integration synergies but also potential conflicts.

CONCLUSIONS:
Integration of genital fistula and POP services may enhance the quality of POP care while increasing the sustainability of fistula care.

Linking household and health facility surveys to assess obstetric service availability, readiness and coverage: evidence from 17 low- and middle-income countries.

Improving access and quality of obstetric service has the potential to avert preventable maternal, neonatal and stillborn deaths, yet little is known about the quality of care received. This study sought to assess obstetric service availability, readiness and coverage within and between 17 low- and middle-income countries.We linked health facility data from the Service Provision Assessments and Service Availability and Readiness Assessments, with corresponding household survey data obtained from the Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys. Based on performance of obstetric signal functions, we defined four levels of facility emergency obstetric care (EmOC) functionality: comprehensive (CEmOC), basic (BEmOC), BEmOC-2, and low/substandard. Facility readiness was evaluated based on the direct observation of 23 essential items; facilities “ready to provide obstetric services” had ?20 of 23 items available. Across countries, we used medians to characterize service availability and readiness, overall and by urban-rural location; analyses also adjusted for care-seeking patterns to estimate population-level coverage of obstetric services.Of the 111?500 health facilities surveyed, 7545 offered obstetric services and were included in the analysis. The median percentages of facilities offering EmOC and “ready to provide obstetric services” were 19% and 10%, respectively. There were considerable urban-rural differences, with absolute differences of 19% and 29% in the availability of facilities offering EmOC and “ready to provide obstetric services”, respectively. Adjusting for care-seeking patterns, results from the linking approach indicated that among women delivering in a facility, a median of 40% delivered in facilities offering EmOC, and 28% delivered in facilities “ready to provide obstetric services”. Relatively higher coverage of facility deliveries (?65%) and coverage of deliveries in facilities “ready to provide obstetric services” (?30% of facility deliveries) were only found in three countries.The low levels of availability, readiness and coverage of obstetric services documented represent substantial missed opportunities within health systems. Global and national efforts need to prioritize upgrading EmOC functionality and improving readiness to deliver obstetric service, particularly in rural areas. The approach of linking health facility and household surveys described here could facilitate the tracking of progress towards quality obstetric care.