Amid COVID-19 pandemic, are non-COVID patients left in the lurch?

Objectives: 1) To explore the possible impact of the pandemic on the health seeking behavior of the patients, 2) To explore the relation of socio-demographics on the utility of health-care facilities.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted by enrolling all patients ≥15 years of age presenting to the Out-Patient-Department of three main public-hospitals after obtaining ethical committee approval. A questionnaire with validated Urdu translation was filled by each participant that included socio-demographic data, pre-Covid and Covid-19 era health seeking behaviors and the impact of the pandemic on the utilization of healthcare facilities. Data was analyzed using SPSS V.19.

Results: A total of 393 patients were enrolled with a male preponderance (72%) and a median age range of 31-45 years. Fifty-eight percent of the study population was unemployed and 47.3% were seeking follow up care. The frequency of ER and multiple (>4 times) OPD visits were significantly decreased in the Covid-19 times whereas, the laboratory and radiology services were largely unaffected. A significant number of patients were not satisfied with the current healthcare facilities that was seen irrespective of the socio-demographic status. Emergency Room and radiology services were largely unaffected whereas, elective procedures and laboratory facilities were reported to be severely affected or delayed in relation to socio-demographic variables.

Conclusions: Healthcare inequalities have widened and depression has shown a sharp rise during this pandemic. The over-burdened healthcare facilities at the verge of collapse may miss out on the chronic non-Covid patients which would ultimately lead to increased morbidity and mortality.

How do Supply- and Demand-side Interventions Influence Equity in Healthcare Utilisation? Evidence from Maternal Healthcare in Senegal

The launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, followed by the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, and the increasing focus on achieving universal health coverage has led to numerous interventions on both supply- and demand-sides of health systems in low- and middle-income countries. While tremendous progress has been achieved, inequities in access to healthcare persist, leading to calls for a closer examination of the equity implications of these interventions. This paper examines the equity implications of two such interventions in the context of maternal healthcare in Senegal. The first intervention on the supply-side focuses on improving the availability of maternal health services while the second intervention, on the demand-side, abolished user fees for facility deliveries. Using three rounds of Demographic Health Surveys
covering the period 1992 to 2010 and employing three measures of socioeconomic status (SES) based on household wealth, mothers’ education and rural/urban residence – we find that although both interventions increase utilisation of maternal health services, the rich benefit more from the supply-side intervention, thereby increasing inequity, while the poor benefit more from the demand-side intervention i.e. reducing inequity. Both interventions positively influence facility deliveries in rural areas although the increase in facility deliveries after the demand-side intervention is more than the increase after the supply-side intervention. There is no significant difference in utilisation based on mothers’ education. Since people from different SES categories are likely to respond differently to interventions on the supply- and demand-side of the health system, policymakers involved in the design of health programmes should pay closer attention to concerns of inequity and elite capture that may unintentionally result from these interventions

Healthcare in transition in the Republic of Armenia: the evolution of emergency medical systems and directions forward

Armenia, an ex-Soviet Republic in transition since independence in 1991, has made remarkable strides in development. The crisis of prioritization that has plagued many post-Soviet republics in transition has meant differential growth in varied sectors in Armenia. Emergency systems is one of the sectors which is neglected in the current drive to modernize. The legacy of the Soviet Semashko system has left a void in specialized care including emergency care. This manuscript is a descriptive overview of the current state of emergency care in Armenia using in-depth key informant interviews and review of published and unpublished internal United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Ministry of Health (MOH) documents as well as data from the Yerevan Municipal Ambulance Service and international agencies. The Republic of Artsakh is briefly discussed.

The development of emergency care systems is an extremely efficient way to provide care across many different conditions in many age groups. Conditions such as traumatic injuries, heart attacks, cardiac arrest, stroke, and respiratory failure are very time-dependent. Armenia has a decent emergency infrastructure in place and has the benefit of an educated and skilled physician workforce. The missing piece of the puzzle appears to be investment in graduate and post-graduate education in emergency care and development of hospital-based emergency care for stabilization of stroke, myocardial infarction, trauma, and sepsis as well as other acute conditions

Point-of-Care Ultrasound: Applications in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Purpose of Review
This review highlights the applications of point-of-care ultrasound in low- and middle-income countries and shows the diversity of ultrasound in the diagnosis and management of patients.

Recent Findings
There is a paucity of data on point-of-care ultrasound in anesthesiology in low- and middle-income countries. However, research has shown that point-of-care ultrasound can effectively help manage infectious diseases, as well as abdominal and pulmonary pathologies.

Point-of-care ultrasound is a low-cost imaging modality that can be used for the diagnosis and management of diseases that affect low- and middle-income countries. There is limited data on the use of ultrasound in anesthesiology, which provides clinicians and researchers opportunity to study its use during the perioperative period.

Implementation Science Protocol for a participatory, theory-informed implementation research programme in the context of health system strengthening in sub-Saharan Africa (ASSET-ImplementER)

Background ASSET (Health System Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa) is a health system strengthening (HSS) programme that aims to develop and evaluate effective and sustainable solutions that support high-quality care that involve eight work packages across four sub-Saharan African countries. Here we present the protocol for the implementation science (IS) theme within ASSET that aims to (1) understand what HSS interventions work, for whom and how; and (2) how implementation science methodologies can be adapted to improve the design and evaluation of HSS interventions within resource-poor contexts.

Pre-implementation phase The IS theme, jointly with ASSET work-packages, applies IS determinant frameworks to identify factors that influence the effectiveness of delivering evidence-informed care. Determinants are used to select a set of HSS interventions for further evaluation, where work packages also theorise selective mechanisms to achieve the expected outcomes.

Piloting phase and rolling implementation phase Work-packages pilot the HSS interventions. An iterative process then begins involving evaluation, refection and adaptation. Throughout this phase, IS determinant frameworks are applied to monitor and identify barriers and enablers to implementation in a series of workshops, surveys and interviews. Selective mechanisms of action are also investigated. In a final workshop, ASSET teams come together, to reflect and explore the utility of the selected IS methods and provide suggestions for future use.

Structured templates are used to organise and analyse common and heterogeneous patterns across work-packages. Qualitative data are analysed using thematic analysis and quantitative data is analysed using means and proportions.

Conclusions We use a novel combination of implementation science methods at a programmatic level to facilitate comparisons of determinants and mechanisms that influence the effectiveness of HSS interventions in achieving implementation outcomes across different contexts. The study will also contribute conceptual development and clarification at the underdeveloped interface of implementation science, HSS and global health.

Neglected tropical diseases activities in Africa in the COVID-19 era: the need for a “hybrid” approach in COVID-endemic times

With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic showing no signs of abating, resuming neglected tropical disease (NTD) activities, particularly mass drug administration (MDA), is vital. Failure to resume activities will not only enhance the risk of NTD transmission, but will fail to leverage behaviour change messaging on the importance of hand and face washing and improved sanitation—a common strategy for several NTDs that also reduces the risk of COVID-19 spread. This so-called “hybrid approach” will demonstrate best practices for mitigating the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by incorporating physical distancing, use of masks, and frequent hand-washing in the delivery of medicines to endemic communities and support action against the transmission of the virus through water, sanitation and hygiene interventions promoted by NTD programmes. Unless MDA and morbidity management activities resume, achievement of NTD targets as projected in the WHO/NTD Roadmap (2021–2030) will be deferred, the aspirational goal of NTD programmes to enhance universal health coverage jeopardised and the call to ‘leave no one behind’ a hollow one. We outline what implementing this hybrid approach, which aims to strengthen health systems, and facilitate integration and cross-sector collaboration, can achieve based on work undertaken in several African countries.

Double standards in healthcare innovations: the case of mosquito net mesh for hernia repair

With over two decades of evidence available including from randomised clinical trials, we explore whether the use of low-cost mosquito net mesh for inguinal hernia repair, common practice only in low-income and middle-income countries, represents a double standard in surgical care. We explore the clinical evidence, biomechanical properties and sterilisation requirements for mosquito net mesh for hernia repair and discuss the rationale for its use routinely in all settings, including in high-income settings. Considering that mosquito net mesh is as effective and safe as commercial mesh, and also with features that more closely resemble normal abdominal wall tissue, there is a strong case for its use in all settings, not just low-income and middle-income countries. In the healthcare sector specifically, either innovations should be acceptable for all contexts, or none at all. If such a double standard exists and worse, persists, it raises serious questions about the ethics of promoting healthcare innovations in some but not all contexts in terms of risks to health outcomes, equitable access, and barriers to learning.

Organ Donation and Transplantation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Opportunities and Challenges

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), occupying about 80% of the African continent is a heterogeneous region with estimated population of 1.1 billion people in 47 countries. Most belong to the low resource countries (LRCs). The high prevalence of end-organ diseases of kidney, liver, lung and heart makes provision of organ donation and transplantation necessary. Although kidney and heart transplantations were performed in South Africa in the 1960s, transplant activity in SSA lags behind the developed world. Peculiar challenges militating against successful development of transplant programmes include high cost of treatment, low GDP of most countries, inadequate infrastructural and institutional support, absence of subsidy, poor knowledge of the disease condition, poor accessibility to health-care facilities, religious and trado-cultural practices. Many people in the region patronize alternative healthcare as first choice. Opportunities that if harnessed may alter the unfavorable landscape are: implementation of the 2007 WHO Regional Consultation recommendations for establishment of national legal framework and self-sufficient organ donation/transplantation in each country and adoption of their 2020 proposed actions for organ/transplantation for member states, national registries with sharing of data with GODT, prevention of transplant commercialization and tourism. Additionally, adapting some aspects of proven successful models in LRCs will improve transplantation programmes in SSA.

Surgical data strengthening in Ethiopia: results of a Kirkpatrick framework evaluation of a data quality intervention

Background: One key challenge in improving surgical care in resource-limited settings is the lack of high-quality and informative data. In Ethiopia, the Safe Surgery 2020 (SS2020) project developed surgical key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate surgical care within the country. New data collection methods were developed and piloted in 10 SS2020 intervention hospitals in the Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia.

Objective: To assess the feasibility of collecting and reporting new surgical indicators and measure the impact of a surgical Data Quality Intervention (DQI) in rural Ethiopian hospitals.

Methods: An 8-week DQI was implemented to roll-out new data collection tools in SS2020 hospitals. The Kirkpatrick Method, a widely used mixed-method evaluation framework for training programs, was used to assess the impact of the DQI. Feedback surveys and focus groups at various timepoints evaluated the impact of the intervention on surgical data quality, the feasibility of a new data collection system, and the potential for national scale-up.

Results: Results of the evaluation are largely positive and promising. DQI participants reported knowledge gain, behavior change, and improved surgical data quality, as well as greater teamwork, communication, leadership, and accountability among surgical staff. Barriers remained in collection of high-quality data, such as lack of adequate human resources and electronic data reporting infrastructure.

Conclusions: Study results are largely positive and make evident that surgical data capture is feasible in low-resource settings and warrants more investment in global surgery efforts. This type of training and mentorship model can be successful in changing individual behavior and institutional culture regarding surgical data collection and reporting. Use of the Kirkpatrick Framework for evaluation of a surgical DQI is an innovative contribution to literature and can be easily adapted and expanded for use within global surgery.

The Withdrawal of the United States From the World Health Organization and Its Impact on Global Neurosurgery

To the Editor:

Right now, in any low to middle income country (LMIC), a child has developed postinfectious life-threatening hydrocephalus or a mother has suffered a brain bleed after a motor vehicle collision. Their lives could be saved by neurosurgical procedures such as shunting, third ventriculostomies, or burr holes. In the poor countries of the world, these conditions are incredibly common and result in significant morbidity and mortality while taking a tremendous toll on national economies. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery clearly demonstrated the utility in ensuring access to life-saving surgical interventions such as these.1 However, the efforts to help vulnerable people lead full and productive lives are now at profound risk due to the unfortunate decision by the United States to withdraw funding from the World Health Organization (WHO).

On July 7, 2020, the United States announced its withdrawal of large financial support to WHO due to concerns surrounding the agency’s coronavirus response. Global efforts in infectious disease control, nutrition, and education will certainly be impacted by this decision, but so will global neurosurgery. Defunding WHO could have a profound impact on the gains made in capacity-building efforts and improving access to neurosurgical care.

Global neurosurgery is the public health and clinical care of neurosurgical patients with the primary purpose of ensuring timely, safe, and affordable neurosurgical care to all who need it.2 The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery incorporates all surgical disciplines, including global neurosurgery. The release of the Commission sounded the alarm on the investment of interdependent components of a surgical system such as anesthesia staff, nurses, operating rooms, critical care services, and biomedical engineers.3 With better capacity comes better neurosurgery and consequently improved treatment of the millions of patients every year with life-altering neurosurgical disease.

So where does WHO fit in? The United Nations (UN) has outlined its Sustainable Developmental Goals, which are to be reached by 2030. Global neurosurgery is related to targets #3 and #17—the promotion of healthy lives and global partnerships, respectively.4 WHO is the coordinating authority regarding health within the UN.

WHO is mandated to implement the health priorities set by its member states (MSs). In 2015, the members of WHO unanimously passed a resolution calling for “Strengthening Emergency and Essential Surgical Care and Anaesthesia as a Component of Universal Health Coverage.” The United States was a cosponsor of this historic resolution. Today, with the help of WHO and its key partners, more than 40 LMICs are currently in various stages of implementing the mandates of this resolution. Subspecialists such as neurosurgeons are transforming the profession by integrating the principle of health equity with WHO’s support. For example, WHO has partnered with the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS), the largest professional society within neurosurgery, to better understand the global neurosurgical disease burden and workforce deficits. This partnership also permits better access to local stakeholders to continue important advocacy efforts. Individual LMICs, under the WFNS-WHO partnership, can effectively push the agenda of improved neurosurgical care that is nationally or regionally specific.

At the World Health Assembly meeting in 2018, it was clear that WHO was increasing collaboration and communication between neurosurgical systems around the world.5 As Rosseau describes, neurosurgeons convened with health ministries and other key players to commit to “…sharing training, equipment, and other resources with the rest of the global surgery community.” Neurosurgeons seated at the table with WHO was a significant step in the right direction.

Finally, it is well known that WHO is one of the most significant champions of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Neurosurgical care is part of UHC and thus needs to be protected at all costs. In a country like Uganda, where the average person makes $2280 USD/yr and may spend up to $1220 USD for a neurosurgical procedure, the economic burden on patients can be devastating.6 WHO encourages governments to strategically partner with the public and private sectors to ensure that all health needs, including neurosurgical ones, are economically met with the best quality of medicine available.

The global neurosurgery movement, as part of the broader global surgery movement, would not have been possible without WHO. The key stakeholders respect and depend on WHO to set global priorities and support the MS implementation of their mandates. Yes, WHO can improve. But the United States will be far more effective in driving the improvement as an MS. The consequences of withdrawal of funding from WHO are devastating and will adversely affect millions of people around the world and, in particular, neurosurgical patients.