Gender-based analysis of factors affecting junior medical students’ career selection: addressing the shortage of surgical workforce in Rwanda.

Background
There is a strong need for expanding surgical workforce in low- and middle-income countries. However, the number of medical students selecting surgical careers is not sufficient to meet this need. In Rwanda, there is an additional gender gap in speciality selection. Our study aims to understand the early variables involved in junior medical students’ preference of specialisation with a focus on gender disparities.

Methods
We performed a cross-sectional survey of medical students during their clinical rotation years at the University of Rwanda. Demographics, specialisation preference, and factors involved in that preference were obtained using questionnaires and analysed using descriptive statistics and odds ratios.

Results
One hundred eighty-one respondents participated in the study (49.2% response rate) with a female-to-male ratio of 1 to 2.5. Surgery was the preferred speciality for 46.9% of male participants, and obstetrics/gynaecology for 29.4% of females. The main selection criteria for those who had already decided on surgery as a career included intellectual challenge (60.0%), interaction with residents (52.7%), and core clerkship experience (41.8%) for male participants and interaction with residents (57.1%), intellectual challenge (52.4%), and core clerkship experience (52.4%) for female participants. Females were more likely than males to join surgery based on perceived research opportunities (OR 2.7, p = 0.04). Male participants were more likely than their female participants to drop selection of surgery as a speciality when an adverse interaction with a resident was encountered (OR 0.26, p = 0.03).

Conclusion
This study provides insight into factors that guide Rwandan junior medical students’ speciality preference. Medical students are more likely to consider surgical careers when exposed to positive clerkship experiences that provide intellectual challenges, as well as focused mentorship that facilitates effective research opportunities. Ultimately, creating a comprehensive curriculum that supports students’ preferences may help encourage their selection of surgical careers.

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.

Pilot study assessing the direct medical cost of treating patients with cancer in Kenya; findings and implications for the future.

Currently the majority of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where there are appreciable funding concerns. In Kenya, most patients currently pay out of pocket for treatment, and those who are insured are generally not covered for the full costs of treatment. This places a considerable burden on households if family members develop cancer. However, the actual cost of cancer treatment in Kenya is unknown. Such an analysis is essential to better allocate resources as Kenya strives towards universal healthcare.To evaluate the economic burden of treating cancer patients.Descriptive cross-sectional cost of illness study in the leading teaching and referral hospital in Kenya, with data collected from the hospital files of sampled adult patients for treatment during 2016.In total, 412 patient files were reviewed, of which 63.4% (n?=?261) were female and 36.6% (n?=?151) male. The cost of cancer care is highly dependent on the modality. Most reviewed patients had surgery, chemotherapy and palliative care. The cost of cancer therapy varied with the type of cancer. Patients on chemotherapy alone cost an average of KES 138,207 (USD 1364.3); while those treated with surgery cost an average of KES 128,207 (1265.6), and those on radiotherapy KES 119,036 (1175.1). Some patients had a combination of all three, costing, on average, KES 333,462 (3291.8) per patient during the year.The cost of cancer treatment in Kenya depends on the type of cancer, the modality, cost of medicines and the type of inpatient admission. The greatest contributors are currently the cost of medicines and inpatient admissions. This pilot study can inform future initiatives among the government as well as private and public insurance companies to increase available resources, and better allocate available resources, to more effectively treat patients with cancer in Kenya. The authors will be monitoring developments and conducting further research.

Out-of-Pocket and Catastrophic Expenses Incurred by Seeking Pediatric and Adult Surgical Care at a Public, Tertiary Care Centre in Uganda.

Background
Surgical care is critical to establish effective healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries, yet the unmet need for surgical conditions is as high as 65% in Ugandan children. Financial burden and geographical distance are common barriers to help-seeking in adult populations and are unmeasured in the pediatric population. We thus measured out-of-pocket (OOP) expenses and distance traveled for pediatric surgical care in a tertiary hospital in Mbarara, Uganda, as compared to adult surgical and pediatric medical patients.

Methods
Patients admitted to pediatric surgical (n = 20), pediatric medical (n = 18) and adult surgical (n = 18) wards were interviewed upon discharge over a period of 3 weeks. Patient and caregiver-reported expenses incurred for the present illness included prior/future care needed, and travel distance/cost. The prevalence of catastrophic expenses (≥10% of annual income) was calculated and spending patterns compared between wards.

Results
Thirty-five percent of pediatric medical patients, 45% of pediatric surgical patients and 55% of adult surgical patients incurred catastrophic expenses. Pediatric surgical patients paid more for their current treatment (p <  0.01)—specifically medications (p <  0.01) and tests (p <  0.01)—than pediatric medical patients, and comparable costs to adults. Adult patients paid more for treatment prior to the hospital (p = 0.04) and miscellaneous expenses (e.g., food while admitted) (p = 0.02). Patients in all wards traveled comparable distances.

Conclusions
Seeking healthcare at a publicly funded hospital is financially catastrophic for almost half of patients. Out-of-stock supplies and broken equipment make surgical care particularly vulnerable to OOP expenses because analgesics, anaesthesia and preoperative imaging are prerequisites to care.

Surgical consent in sub-Saharan Africa: a modern challenge for the humanitarian surgeon.

Surgical consent is one of the pillars of ethical conduct in Western world surgical practice. Recent studies have described the consenting processes for clinical trials in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but only a few have explored its practice before surgical procedures. The recent World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Lisbon recommends autonomy and independent decision-making. However, informed consent is influenced by cultural background, family structure, socioeconomic status, religion and education. The authors of the paper support the WMA recommendations, but agree the process for obtaining informed consent should be reviewed and developed to integrate in a culturally appropriate manner. This commentary reports the author’s personal experience of surgical consent in Burundi and reviews the literature describing its practice and the specific challenges faced in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its aim is to encourage a debate among surgeons as to how surgical consent can be undertaken in different scenarios of LMICs.

A profile of surgical burden and anaesthesia services at Mozambique’s Central Hospital: A review.

Surgical and anaesthesia data, including outcomes, remain limited in low-income countries (LIC). This study reviews the surgical burden and anaesthesia services at a tertiary care hospital in Mozambique.Information on activities within the department of anaesthesia at Maputo Central Hospital for 2014-15 was collected from its annual report and verified by the Chairman of Anaesthesia. Personnel information and health care metrics for the hospital in 2015 were collected and verified by hospital leadership.Maputo Central Hospital has 1423 beds with 50.1% allocated to primary surgical services. 39.7% of total admissions were to surgical services, and in 2015 the hospital performed 10,049 major operations requiring anaesthesia. The OB/GYN service had the most operations with 2894 (28.8%), followed by general surgery (1665, 16.6%). Inpatient surgical mortality was 4.1% and surgical-related diagnoses comprised two of the top 9 causes of death, with malignant neoplasms and hemorrhage from trauma causing the highest mortality. In 2014-15, Maputo Central Hospital employed 15 anesthesiologists, with 4 advanced and 23 basic mid-level anaesthesia providers. Of 10,897 total anaesthesia cases in 2014, 6954 were general anaesthesia and 3925 were neuraxial anaesthesia. Other anaesthesia services included chronic pain and intensive care consultation. Anaesthesia department leadership noted a strong desire to improve data collection and analysis for anaesthesia outcomes and complications, requested an additional administrator for statistical analysis.This profile of anaesthesia services at a large tertiary hospital in Mozambique highlights several features of anaesthesia care and surgical burden in LICs, including challenges of resource limitations, patient comorbidity, and social dynamics present in Mozambique that contribute to prolonged hospital stays. As noted, enhanced data collection and analysis within the department and the hospital may be useful in identifying strategies to improve outcomes and patient safety.

Developing Process Maps as a Tool for a Surgical Infection Prevention Quality Improvement Initiative in Resource-Constrained Settings.

Surgical infections cause substantial morbidity and mortality in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). To improve adherence to critical perioperative infection prevention standards, we developed Clean Cut, a checklist-based quality improvement program to improve compliance with best practices. We hypothesized that process mapping infection prevention activities can help clinicians identify strategies for improving surgical safety.We introduced Clean Cut at a tertiary hospital in Ethiopia. Infection prevention standards included skin antisepsis, ensuring a sterile field, instrument decontamination/sterilization, prophylactic antibiotic administration, routine swab/gauze counting, and use of a surgical safety checklist. Processes were mapped by a visiting surgical fellow and local operating theater staff to facilitate the development of contextually relevant solutions; processes were reassessed for improvements.Process mapping helped identify barriers to using alcohol-based hand solution due to skin irritation, inconsistent administration of prophylactic antibiotics due to variable delivery outside of the operating theater, inefficiencies in assuring sterility of surgical instruments through lack of confirmatory measures, and occurrences of retained surgical items through inappropriate guidelines, staffing, and training in proper routine gauze counting. Compliance with most processes improved significantly following organizational changes to align tasks with specific process goals.Enumerating the steps involved in surgical infection prevention using a process mapping technique helped identify opportunities for improving adherence and plotting contextually relevant solutions, resulting in superior compliance with antiseptic standards. Simplifying these process maps into an adaptable tool could be a powerful strategy for improving safe surgery delivery in LMICs.

Delayed access to care and unmet burden of pediatric surgical disease in resource-constrained African countries.

The purpose of this study was to estimate the unmet burden of surgically correctable congenital anomalies in African low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).We conducted a chart review of children operated for cryptorchidism, isolated cleft lip, hypospadias, bladder exstrophy and anorectal malformation at an Ethiopian referral hospital between January 2012 and July 2016 and a scoping review of the literature describing the management of congenital anomalies in African LMICs. Procedure numbers and age at surgery were collected to estimate mean surgical delays by country and extrapolate surgical backlog. The unmet surgical need was derived from incidence-based disease estimates, established disability weights, and actual surgical volumes.The chart review yielded 210 procedures in 207 patients from Ethiopia. The scoping review generated 42 data sets, extracted from 36 publications, encompassing: Benin, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Madagascar, Malawi, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The largest national surgical backlog was noted in Nigeria for cryptorchidism (209,260 cases) and cleft lip (4154 cases), and Ethiopia for hypospadias (20,188 cases), bladder exstrophy (575 cases) and anorectal malformation (1349 cases).These data support the need for upscaling pediatric surgical capacity in LMICs to address the significant surgical delay, surgical backlog, and unmet prevalent need.Retrospective study and review article LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III.

International Study of the Epidemiology of Paediatric Trauma: PAPSA Research Study.

Objectives
Trauma is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The literature on paediatric trauma epidemiology in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is limited. This study aims to gather epidemiological data on paediatric trauma.

Methods
This is a multicentre prospective cohort study of paediatric trauma admissions, over 1 month, from 15 paediatric surgery centres in 11 countries. Epidemiology, mechanism of injury, injuries sustained, management, morbidity and mortality data were recorded. Statistical analysis compared LMICs and high-income countries (HICs).

Results
There were 1377 paediatric trauma admissions over 31 days; 1295 admissions across ten LMIC centres and 84 admissions across five HIC centres. Median number of admissions per centre was 15 in HICs and 43 in LMICs. Mean age was 7 years, and 62% were boys. Common mechanisms included road traffic accidents (41%), falls (41%) and interpersonal violence (11%). Frequent injuries were lacerations, fractures, head injuries and burns. Intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic injuries accounted for 3 and 2% of injuries. The mechanisms and injuries sustained differed significantly between HICs and LMICs. Median length of stay was 1 day and 19% required an operative intervention; this did not differ significantly between HICs and LMICs. No mortality and morbidity was reported from HICs. In LMICs, in-hospital morbidity was 4.0% and mortality was 0.8%.

Conclusion
The spectrum of paediatric trauma varies significantly, with different injury mechanisms and patterns in LMICs. Healthcare structure, access to paediatric surgery and trauma prevention strategies may account for these differences. Trauma registries are needed in LMICs for future research and to inform local policy.

The increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases in low-middle income countries: the view from Malawi.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death globally, the majority of these being due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, or diabetes. Mortality from many NCDs continues to increase worldwide, with a disproportionately larger impact in low-middle income countries (LMIs), where almost 75% of global deaths occur from these causes. As a low-income African country that consistently ranks amongst the world’s poorest nations, Malawi as a case study demonstrates how transition due to societal change and increasing urbanization is often accompanied by a rise in the rate of NCDs. Other factors apart from changing lifestyle factors can explain at least some of this increase, such as the complex relationship between communicable and NCD and growing environmental, occupational, and cultural pressures. Malawi and other LMIs are struggling to manage the increasing challenge of NCDs, in addition to an already high communicable disease burden. However, health care policy implementation, specific health promotion campaigns, and further epidemiological research may be key to attenuating this impending health crisis, both in Malawi and elsewhere. This review aims to examine the effects of the major NCDs in Malawi to help inform future public health care policy in the region.