Improving emergency obstetric referral systems in low and middle income countries: a qualitative study in a tertiary health facility in Ghana.

Timely access to emergency obstetric care is crucial in preventing mortalities associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The referral of patients from lower levels of care to higher levels has been identified as an integral component of the health care delivery system in Ghana. To this effect, in 2012, the National Referral Policy and Guidelines was developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to help improve standard procedures and reduce delays which affect access to emergency care. Nonetheless, ensuring timely access to care during referral of obstetric emergencies has been problematic. The study aimed to identify barriers associated with the referral of emergency obstetric cases to the leading national referral centre. It specifically examines the lived experiences of patients, healthcare providers and relatives of patients on the referral system. Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra was used as a case study in 2016.The qualitative method was used and in-depth interviews were conducted with 89 respondents: healthcare providers [n = 34];patients [n = 31] and relatives of patients [n = 24] using semi-structured interview guides. Purposive sampling techniques were used in selecting healthcare providers and patients and convenience sampling techniques were used in selecting relatives of patients. The study identified a range of barriers encountered in the referral process and broadly fall under the major themes: referral transportation system, referrer-receiver communication barriers, inadequate infrastructure and supplies and insufficient health personnel. Some highlights of the problem included inadequate use of ambulance services, poor management of patients during transit, lack of professional escort, unannounced emergency referrals, lack of adequate information and feedback and limited supply of beds, drugs and blood. These findings have implications on type II and III of the three delays model. Initiatives to improve the transportation system for the referral of obstetric emergencies are vital in ensuring patients’ safety during transfer. Communication between referring and receiving facilities should be enhanced. A strong collaboration is needed between teaching hospitals and other stakeholders in the referral chain to foster good referral practices and healthcare delivery. Concurrently, supply side barriers at referred facilities including ensuring sufficient provision for bed, blood, drugs, and personnel must be addressed.

Does insurance protect individuals from catastrophic payments for surgical care? An analysis of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme at Korle-Bu teaching Hospital

Background
According to the World Health Organization, essential surgery should be recognized as an essential component of universal health coverage. In Ghana, insurance is associated with a reduction in maternal mortality and improved access to essential medications, but whether it eliminates financial barriers to surgery is unknown. This study tested the hypothesis that insurance protects surgical patients against financial catastrophe.

Methods
We interviewed patients admitted to the general surgery wards of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) between February 1, 2017 – October 1, 2017 to obtain demographic data, income, occupation, household expenditures, and insurance status. Surgical diagnoses and procedures, procedural fees, and anesthesia fees incurred were collected through chart review. The data were collected on a Qualtrics platform and analyzed in STATA version 14.1. Fisher exact and Student T-tests were used to compare the insured and uninsured groups. Threshold for financial catastrophe was defined as health costs that exceeded 10% of household expenditures, 40% of non-food expenditures, or 20% of the individual’s income.

Results
Among 196 enrolled patients, insured patients were slightly older [mean 49 years vs 40 years P < 0.05] and more of them were female [65% vs 41% p < 0.05]. Laparotomy (22.2%) was the most common surgical procedure for both groups. Depending on the definition, 58–87% of insured patients would face financial catastrophe, versus 83–98% of uninsured patients (all comparisons by definition were significant, p < .05).

Conclusion
This study—the first to evaluate the impact of insurance on financial risk protection for surgical patients in Ghana—found that although insured patients were less likely than uninsured to face financial catastrophe as a result of their surgery, more than half of insured surgical patients treated at KBTH were not protected from financial catastrophe under the Ghana’s national health insurance scheme due to out-of-pocket payments. Government-specific strategies to increase the proportion of cost covered and to enroll the uninsured is crucial to achieving universal health coverage inclusive of surgical care.

Global surgery volunteerism with operation hernia: a trainee surgeon’s experience

Access to adequate health services is a universal right for individuals and lack of it can have adverse consequences. The elective hernia repair rate in Ghana remains low and a considerable number of inguinal hernias still present as emergencies. Operation hernia is a charitable, UK-based organization that supports the healthcare infrastructure in Ghana through the provision of elective hernia repairs to prevent complications. Mesh repairs are carried out using sterilized, affordable mesh which is made of polyester and is a cheaper alternative to the expensive, commercial mesh. In November 2017 Operation hernia sent two teams of Surgeons and scrub nurses to work in two hospitals in Ghana. This was a successful mission that resulted in more than 150 successful hernia repairs. This article is written by a full-time general surgical ST6 Registrar detailing her first experience as a volunteer surgeon in Volta Regional Hospital in the town of Ho and the rewards reaped from this global surgical volunteerism experience.

A Liftless Intervention to Prevent Preterm Birth and Low Birthweight Among Pregnant Ghanaian Women: Protocol of a Stepped-Wedge Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial.

Preterm birth (PTB) is a leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Every year, 20 million babies are born with low birthweight (LBW), about 96% of which occur in low-income countries. Despite the associated dangers, in about 40%-50% of PTB and LBW cases, the causes remain unexplained. Existing evidence is inconclusive as to whether occupational physical activities such as heavy lifting are implicated. African women bear the transport burden of accessing basic needs for their families. Ghana’s PTB rate is 14.5%, whereas the global average is 9.6%. The proposed liftless intervention aims to decrease lifting exposure during pregnancy among Ghanaian women. We hypothesize that a reduction in heavy lifting among pregnant women in Ghana will increase gestational age and birthweight.To investigate the effects of the liftless intervention on the incidence of PTB and LBW among pregnant Ghanaian women.A cohort stepped-wedge cluster randomized controlled trial in 10 antenatal clinics will be carried out in Ghana. A total of 1000 pregnant participants will be recruited for a 60-week period. To be eligible, the participant should have a singleton pregnancy between 12 and 16 weeks gestation, be attending any of the 10 antenatal clinics, and be exposed to heavy lifting. All participants will receive standard antenatal care within the control phase; by random allocation, two clusters will transit into the intervention phase. The midwife-led 3-component liftless intervention consists of health education, a take-home reminder card mimicking the colors of a traffic light, and a shopping voucher. The primary outcome are gestational ages of <28, 28-32, and 33-37 weeks. The secondary outcomes are LBW (preterm LBW, term but LBW, and postterm), compliance, prevalence of low back and pelvic pain, and premature uterine contractions. Study midwives and participants will not be blinded to the treatment allocation.Permission to conduct the study at all 10 antenatal clinics has been granted by the Ghana Health Service. Application for funding to begin the trial is ongoing. Findings from the main trial are expected to be published by the end of 2019.To the best of our knowledge, there has been no randomized trial of this nature in Ghana. Minimizing heavy lifting among pregnant African women can reduce the soaring rates of PTB and LBW. The findings will increase the knowledge of the prevention of PTB and LBW worldwide.Pan African Clinical Trial Register (PACTR201602001301205); http://apps.who.int/trialsearch/ Trial2.aspx?TrialID=PACTR201602001301205 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/71TCYkHzu).RR1-10.2196/10095.

Adult Intussusception due to Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor: A Rare Case Report, Comprehensive Literature Review, and Diagnostic Challenges in Low-Resource Countries.

We present a rare case of gastrogastric intussusception due to gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) and the largest comprehensive literature review of published case reports on gastrointestinal (GI) intussusception due to GIST in the past three decades. We found that the common presenting symptoms were features of gastrointestinal obstruction and melena. We highlight the diagnostic challenges faced in low-resource countries. Our findings emphasize the importance of early clinical diagnosis in low-resource settings in order to guide timely management. In addition, histological analysis of the tumor for macroscopic and microscopic characteristics including mitotic index and c-Kit/CD117 status should be obtained to guide adjuvant therapy with imatinib mesylate. Periodic follow-up to access tumor recurrence is fundamental and should be the standard of care.

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.

Traffic flow and microbial air contamination in operating rooms at a major teaching hospital in Ghana.

Background
Current literature examining the relationship between door-opening rate, number of people present, and microbial air contamination in the operating room is limited. Studies are especially needed from low- and middle-income countries, where the risk of surgical site infections is high.

Aim
To assess microbial air contamination in operating rooms at a Ghanaian teaching hospital and the association with door-openings and number of people present. Moreover, we aimed to document reasons for door-opening.

Methods
We conducted active air-sampling using an MAS 100® portable impactor during 124 clean or clean-contaminated elective surgical procedures. The number of people present, door-opening rate and the reasons for each door-opening were recorded by direct observation using pretested structured observation forms.

Findings
During surgery, the mean number of colony-forming units (cfu) was 328 cfu/m3 air, and 429 (84%) of 510 samples exceeded a recommended level of 180 cfu/m3. Of 6717 door-openings recorded, 77% were considered unnecessary. Levels of cfu/m3 were strongly correlated with the number of people present (P = 0.001) and with the number of door-openings/h (P = 0.02). In empty operating rooms, the mean cfu count was 39 cfu/m3 after 1 h of uninterrupted ventilation and 52 (51%) of 102 samples exceeded a recommended level of 35 cfu/m3.

Conclusion
The study revealed high values of intraoperative airborne cfu exceeding recommended levels. Minimizing the number of door-openings and people present during surgery could be an effective strategy to reduce microbial air contamination in low- and middle-income settings