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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Operations for Suspected Neoplasms in a Resource-Limited Setting: Experience and Challenges in the Eastern Democratic of Congo.

Surgery is an essential component of a functional health system, with surgical conditions accounting for nearly 11–15% of world disability. While communicable diseases continue to burden low- and low–middle-income countries, non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, are an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Preliminary data on malignancies in low- and middle-income countries, specifically in Africa, suggest a higher mortality compared to other regions of the world, a difference partially explained by limited availability of screening and early detection systems as well as poorer access to treatment.

To evaluate the diagnosed tumor burden in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and review literature on existing and suspected barriers to accessing appropriate oncologic care.

This is a retrospective study carried out at Healthcare, Education, community Action, and Leadership development Africa, a 197-bed tertiary referral hospital, in the Province of North Kivu, along the eastern border of the DRC from 2012 to 2015. Patient charts were reviewed for diagnoses of presumed malignancy with biopsy results.

A total of 252 cases of suspected cancer were reviewed during the study period; 39.7% were men. The average age of patients was 43 years. Amongst adult patients, the most common presenting condition involved breast lesions with 5.8% diagnosis of fibrocystic breast changes and 2.9% invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. 37.3% of female patients had lesions involving the cervix or uterus. The most common diagnosis amongst male adults was prostate disease (16.7% of men). For pediatric patients, the most common diagnoses involved bone and/or cartilage (27.3%) followed by skin and soft tissue lesions (20.0%). All patients underwent surgical resection of lesions; some patients were advised to travel out of country for chemotherapy and radiation for which follow-up data are unavailable.

Adequate and timely treatment of malignancy in the DRC faces a multitude of challenges. Access to surgical services for diagnosis and management as well as chemotherapeutic agents is prohibitively limited. Increased collaboration with local clinicians and remote specialist consultants is needed to deliver subspecialty care in resource-poor settings.

Conotruncal Heart Defect Repair in Sub-Saharan Africa: Remarkable Outcomes Despite Poor Access to Treatment.

The outcome of children born with conotruncal heart defects may serve as an indication of the status of pediatric cardiac care in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This study was undertaken to determine the outcome of children born with conotruncal anomalies in SSA, regarding access to treatment and outcomes of surgical intervention.

From our institution in Ghana, we retrospectively analyzed the outcomes of surgery, in the two-year period from June 2013 to May 2015. The birth prevalence of congenital heart defects (CHDs) in SSA countries was derived by extrapolation using an incidence of 8 per 1,000 live births for CHDs.

The birth prevalence of CHDs for the 48 countries in SSA using 2013 country data was 258,875; 10% of these are presumed to be conotruncal anomalies. Six countries (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya) accounted for 53.5% of the birth prevalence. In Ghana, 20 patients (tetralogy of Fallot [TOF], 17; pulmonary atresia, 3) underwent palliation and 50 (TOF, 36; double-outlet right ventricle, 14) underwent repair. Hospital mortality was 0% for palliation and 4% for repair. Only 6 (0.5%) of the expected 1,234 cases of conotruncal defects underwent palliation or repair within two years of birth.

Six countries in SSA account for more than 50% of the CHD burden. Access to treatment within two years of birth is probably <1%. The experience from Ghana demonstrates that remarkable surgical outcomes are achievable in low- to middle-income countries of SSA.