Exploring the lived experiences of parents caring for infants with gastroschisis in Rwanda: The untold story

Pediatric surgery is a crucial pillar of health equity but is often not prioritized in the global health agenda, especially in low-and middle-income countries. Gastroschisis (GS) is a type of structural congenital anomaly that can be treated through surgical interventions. In Rwanda, neonatal surgical care is only available in one hospital. The experience of parents of children born with gastroschisis has not been previously studied in Rwanda. The objective of this study was to explore the lived experiences of parents of children diagnosed with GS in Rwanda. A qualitative study using a semi-structured interview guide was conducted. Parents who had children with gastroschisis and were discharged alive from the hospital in Rwanda were interviewed by trained data collectors, from May to July 2021. Data were transcribed, translated, and then coded using a structured code-book. Thematic analysis was conducted with the use of Dedoose software. Sixteen parents participated in the study. Five themes emerged from the data. They were: “GS diagnosis had a significant emotional impact on the parents”, “Parents were content with the life-saving medical care provided for their children despite some dissatisfaction due to the delayed initiation of care and shortage of medications”, “GS care was accompanied by financial challenges”, “support systems were important coping mechanisms” and “the impact of GS care extended into the post-discharge period”. Having a newborn with GS was an emotional journey. The lack of pre-knowledge about the condition created a shock to the parents. Parents found support from their faith and other parents with similar experiences. The experiences with the care received were mostly positive. The overall financial burden incurred from the medical treatment and indirect costs was high and extended beyond the hospital stay. Strengthening prenatal and hospital services, providing peer, spiritual and financial support could enhance the parents’ experience.

Coaching for impact: successful implementation of a multi-national, multi-institutional synchronous research course in Ethiopia

Purpose
Under the American College of Surgeons’ Operation Giving Back, several US institutions collaborated with a teaching and regional referral hospital in Ethiopia to develop a surgical research curriculum.

Methods
A virtual, interactive, introductory research course which utilized a web-based classroom platform and live educational sessions via an online teleconferencing application was implemented. Surgical and public health faculty from the US and Ethiopia taught webinars and led breakout coaching sessions to facilitate participants’ project development. Both a pre-course needs assessment survey and a post-course participation survey were used to examine the impact of the course.

Results
Twenty participants were invited to participate in the course. Despite the majority of participants having connection issues (88%), 11 participants completed the course with an 83% average attendance rate. Ten participants successfully developed structured research proposals based on their local clinical needs.

Conclusion
This novel multi-institutional and multi-national research course design was successfully implemented and could serve as a template for greater development of research capacity building in the low- and middle-income country (LMIC) setting.

Exploring health care providers’ experiences of and perceptions towards the use of misoprostol for management of second trimester incomplete abortion in Central Uganda

Introduction
Women living in low- and middle-income countries still have limited access to quality second trimester post abortion care. We aim to explore health care providers’ experiences of and perceptions towards the use of misoprostol for management of second trimester incomplete abortion.

Methods
This qualitative study used the phenomenology approach. We conducted 48 in-depth interviews for doctors and midwives at 14 public health facilities in central Uganda using a flexible interview guide. We used inductive content analysis and made code frequencies based on health care provider cadre, and health facility level and then abstracted themes from categories.

Results
Well trained midwives were perceived as competent to manage second trimester post abortion care stable patients, however doctor’s supervision in case of complications was considered important. Sometimes, midwives were seen as offering better care than doctors given their stronger presence in the facilities. Misoprostol received unanimous support and viewed as: safe, effective, cheap, convenient, readily available, maintained patient privacy, and saved resources. Challenges faced included: side effects, prolonged hospital stay, treatment failure, inclination to surgical evacuation, heavy work load, inadequate space, lack of medical commodities, frequent staff rotations which affects the quality of patient care. To address these challenges, respondents coped by: giving patients psychological support, analgesics, close patient monitoring, staff mentorship, commitment to work, team work and patient involvement in care.

Conclusion
Misoprostol is perceived as an ideal uterine evacuation method for second trimester post abortion care of uncomplicated patients and trained midwives are considered competent managing these patients in a health facility setting with a back-up of a doctor. Health care providers require institutional and policy environment support for improved service delivery.

The impact of the Fundamental Critical Course on knowledge acquisition in Rwanda

Background. Emerging critical care systems have gained little attention in low- and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 4% of the healthcare workforce is trained in critical care, and mortality rates are unacceptably high in this patient population.
Aim. We sought to retrospectively describe the knowledge acquisition and confidence improvement of practitioners who attend the Fundamental Critical Care Support (FCCS) course in Rwanda.
Methods. We conducted a retrospective study in which we assessed survey data and multiple-choice question data that were collected before and after course delivery. The purpose of these assessments at the time of delivery was to evaluate participants’ perception and acquisition of critical care knowledge.
Results. Thirty-six interprofessional clinicians completed the training. Performance on the multiple-choice questions improved overall after the course (mean score pre-course of 56.5% to mean score post-course of 65.8%,p-value <0.001) and improved in all content areas with the exception of diagnosis and management of acute coronary syndrome and acute respiratory failure/mechanical ventilation. Both physicians and nurses improved their scores significantly (68.9% to 75.6%,p-value = 0.031 and 52.0% to 63.5%,p-value <0.001, respectively). Self-reported
confidence in level of knowledge also increased in all areas. Survey respondents indicated on open-answer questions that they would like the course offerings at least annually, and that further dissemination of the course in Rwanda was warranted.
Conclusion. Deploying the established FCCS course improved Rwandan healthcare provider knowledge and confidence across most critical care content areas. Therefore, this course represents a good first step in bridging the gaps noted in emerging critical care systems.

User Perceptions and Use of an Enhanced Electronic Health Record in Rwanda With and Without Clinical Alerts: Cross-sectional Survey

Background:
Electronic health records (EHRs) have been implemented in many low-resource settings but lack strong evidence for usability, use, user confidence, scalability, and sustainability.

Objective:
This study aimed to evaluate staff use and perceptions of an EHR widely used for HIV care in >300 health facilities in Rwanda, providing evidence on factors influencing current performance, scalability, and sustainability.

Methods:
A randomized, cross-sectional, structured interview survey of health center staff was designed to assess functionality, use, and attitudes toward the EHR and clinical alerts. This study used the associated randomized clinical trial study sample (56/112, 50% sites received an enhanced EHR), pulling 27 (50%) sites from each group. Free-text comments were analyzed thematically using inductive coding.

Results:
Of the 100 participants, 90 (90% response rate) were interviewed at 54 health centers: 44 (49%) participants were clinical and 46 (51%) were technical. The EHR top uses were to access client data easily or quickly (62/90, 69%), update patient records (56/89, 63%), create new patient records (49/88, 56%), generate various reports (38/85, 45%), and review previous records (43/89, 48%). In addition, >90% (81/90) of respondents agreed that the EHR made it easier to make informed decisions, was worth using, and has improved patient information quality. Regarding availability, (66/88) 75% said they could always or almost always count on the EHR being available, whereas (6/88) 7% said never/almost never. In intervention sites, staff were significantly more likely to update existing records (P=.04), generate summaries before (P<.001) or during visits (P=.01), and agree that “the EHR provides useful alerts, and reminders” (P<.01).

Conclusions:
Most users perceived the EHR as well accepted, appropriate, and effective for use in low-resource settings despite infrastructure limitation in 25% (22/88) of the sites. The implementation of EHR enhancements can improve the perceived usefulness and use of key functions. Successful scale-up and use of EHRs in small health facilities could improve clinical documentation, care, reporting, and disease surveillance in low- and middle-income countries.

The role of telepathology in diagnosis of premalignant and malignant cervical lesions Implementation at a tertiary hospital in Northern Tanzania

Introduction
Adequate and timely access to pathology services is a key to scale up cancer control, however, there is an extremely shortage of pathologists in Tanzania. Telepathology (scanned images microscopy) has the potential to increase access to pathology services and it is increasingly being employed for primary diagnosis and consultation services. However, the experience with the use of telepathology in Tanzania is limited. We aimed to investigate the feasibility of using scanned images for primary diagnosis of pre-malignant and malignant cervical lesions by assessing its equivalency to conventional (glass slide) microscopy in Tanzania.

Methods
In this laboratory-based study, assessment of hematoxylin and eosin stained glass slides of 175 cervical biopsies were initially performed conventionally by three pathologists independently. The slides were scanned at x 40 and one to three months later, the scanned images were reviewed by the pathologists in blinded fashion. The agreement between initial and review diagnoses across participating pathologists was described and measured using Cohen’s kappa coefficient (κ).

Results
The overall concordance of diagnoses established on conventional microscopy compared to scanned images across three pathologists was 87.7%; κ = 0.54; CI (0.49–0.57).The overall agreement of diagnoses established by local pathologist on conventional microscopy compared to scanned images was 87.4%; κ = 0.73; CI (0.65–0.79). The concordance of diagnoses established by senior pathologist compared to local pathologist on conventional microscopy and scanned images was 96% and 97.7% respectively. The inter-observer agreement (κ) value were 0.93, CI (0.87–1.00) and 0.94, CI (0.88–1.00) for conventional microscopy and scanned images respectively.

Conclusions
All κ coefficients expressed good intra- and inter-observer agreement, suggesting that telepathology is sufficiently accurate for primary diagnosis in surgical pathology. The discrepancies in interpretation of pre-malignant lesions highlights the importance of p16 immunohistochemistry in definitive diagnosis in these lesions. Sustainability factors including hardware and internet connectivity are essential components to be considered before telepathology may be deemed suitable for widely use in Tanzania.

Exploring the feasibility of integration of surveillance for intussusception into the routine monitoring of adverse events following immunization by countries of the WHO African Region for Africa

Surveillance for intussusception (IS) post-rotavirus vaccine introduction in World Health Organization Africa Region (WHO/AFRO) has been restricted mainly to the large referral teaching hospitals. The choice of these facilities for surveillance was made to utilize the abundant expertise of specialists in paediatrics and surgery in these hospitals who can diagnose and manage such patients with IS. The surveillance has been well coordinated by the African Intussusception Surveillance Network established in 2012. This network has supported surveillance across the African region and has accumulated a huge database of IS cases in children < 1 year with findings that have demonstrated safety of the monovalent rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix (GlaxoSmithKline). However, safety data on the pentavalent and RotaTeq (Merck Vaccine) is not yet available from the African region. Although, this network has provided much needed data, there is an inherent bias in monitoring and reporting of IS cases in only large tertiary hospitals. This time limited special project does not capture suspected intussusception cases with no access to hospital facilities used for monitoring IS. Additionally, the design requires extensive resources to support collection of high-quality data for monitoring IS, which is unsustainable. For these reasons suitable linkages between IS monitoring and routine Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) should be established for continuity of monitoring of this condition. We propose alignment of the two systems that offers opportunity for high profile recognition and to enhance a sustainable system for diagnosis, treatment and continuous assessment of intussusception occurring in infancy.

Essential Emergency and Critical Care as a health system response to critical illness and the COVID19 pandemic: What does it cost?

Essential Emergency and Critical Care (EECC) is a novel approach to the care of critically ill patients, focusing on first-tier, low-cost care and designed to be feasible even in low-resourced and low-staffed settings. This is distinct from advanced critical care, usually conducted in ICUs with specialised staff, facilities and technologies. This paper estimates the incremental cost of EECC and advanced critical care for the planning of care for critically ill patients in low resource settings with Kenya and Tanzania as case studies.

The incremental costing took a health systems perspective. A normative approach based on the ingredients defined through the recently published global consensus on EECC was used. The setting was a district hospital in which the patient is provided with the definitive care typically provided at that level for their condition. Quantification of resource use was based on COVID-19 as a tracer condition using clinical expertise. Local prices were used where available, and all costs were converted to USD2020.

The costs per patient day of EECC is estimated to be 1.01 USD, 10.83 USD and 32.84 USD in Tanzania and 1.76 USD, 14.86 USD and 37.43 USD in Kenya, for moderate, severe and critical COVID-19 patients respectively. The cost per patient day of advanced critical care is estimated to be 13.11 USD and 17.33 USD for severe and 297.30 USD and 369.64 USD for critical COVID-19 patients in Tanzania and Kenya, respectively.

EECC, an approach of providing the essential care to all critically ill patients, is low-cost. The components of EECC are basic and universal and, when assessed against the existing gaps in critical care coverage and costs of advanced critical care, suggest that it should be a priority area of investment for health systems around the globe.

Quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa: A protocol for systematic review

Background: The delivery of high-quality health care services and performance is the main aim of all health care systems globally. This review objective is to determine the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa through a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing studies.

Methods: The search will be conducted in pre-determined databases (e.g., PubMed), for eligible studies between 2000 and 2020, to identify studies published in English, which applied the service quality gap (SERVIQUAL) model to determine the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa. The search will also include a review of reference lists of included studies for other eligible studies. Eligible studies will include experimental and observational studies. Two authors will independently screen the search output, select studies and extract data, resolve discrepancies by consensus and discussions. Two authors will use Cochrane risk of bias tools for experimental studies, and Hoy for observational studies. The review will also assess study quality and risk of bias using standardized tools. The review aims to provide comprehensive information on the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa.

Discussion: Understanding patients’ or clients’ expectations and perceptions on the quality of health care services provided in the health care systems are very crucial in the improvement of the health status of the general population. The SERVIQUAL model is a standardized tool used to assess the quality gap of patients/clients perspectives on health care services in hospitals globally. The findings from this review will provide information on the quality gap of health care provided in public hospitals in SSA. Also, we anticipate that the findings will inform policymakers in health care systems on how to improve and maintain the quality of health care services in public hospitals in different African settings.

Systematic review registration number: PROSPERO CRD 420212264100 dated 25/07/2021

The true costs of cesarean delivery for patients in rural Rwanda: Accounting for post-discharge expenses in estimated health expenditures

Introduction
While it is recognized that there are costs associated with postoperative patient follow-up, risk assessments of catastrophic health expenditures (CHEs) due to surgery in sub-Saharan Africa rarely include expenses after discharge. We describe patient-level costs for cesarean section (c-section) and follow-up care up to postoperative day (POD) 30 and evaluate the contribution of follow-up to CHEs in rural Rwanda.

Methods
We interviewed women who delivered via c-section at Kirehe District Hospital between September 2019 and February 2020. Expenditure details were captured on an adapted surgical indicator financial survey tool and extracted from the hospital billing system. CHE was defined as health expenditure of ≥ 10% of annual household expenditure. We report the cost of c-section up to 30 days after discharge, the rate of CHE among c-section patients stratified by in-hospital costs and post-discharge follow-up costs, and the main contributors to c-section follow-up costs. We performed a multivariate logistic regression using a backward stepwise process to determine independent predictors of CHE at POD30 at α ≤ 0.05.

Results
Of the 479 participants in this study, 90% were classified as impoverished before surgery and an additional 6.4% were impoverished by the c-section. The median out-of-pocket costs up to POD30 was US$122.16 (IQR: $102.94, $148.11); 63% of these expenditures were attributed to post-discharge expenses or lost opportunity costs (US$77.50; IQR: $67.70, $95.60). To afford c-section care, 64.4% borrowed money and 18.4% sold possessions. The CHE rate was 27% when only considering direct and indirect costs up to the time of discharge and 77% when including the reported expenses up to POD30. Transportation and lost household wages were the largest contributors to post-discharge costs. Further, CHE at POD30 was independently predicted by membership in community-based health insurance (aOR = 3.40, 95% CI: 1.21,9.60), being a farmer (aOR = 2.25, 95% CI:1.00,3.03), primary school education (aOR = 2.35, 95% CI:1.91,4.66), and small household sizes had 0.22 lower odds of experiencing CHE compared to large households (aOR = 0.78, 95% CI:0.66,0.91).

Conclusion
Costs associated with surgical follow-up are often neglected in financial risk calculations but contribute significantly to the risk of CHE in rural Rwanda. Insurance coverage for direct medical costs is insufficient to protect against CHE. Innovative follow-up solutions to reduce costs of patient transport and compensate for household lost wages need to be considered.