Innovative Financing to Fund Surgical Systems and Expand Surgical Care in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries

Strong surgical systems are necessary to prevent premature death and avoidable disability from surgical conditions. The epidemiological transition, which has led to a rising burden of non-communicable diseases and injuries worldwide, will increase the demand for surgical assessment and care as a definitive healthcare intervention. Yet, 5 billion people lack access to timely, affordable and safe surgical and anaesthesia care, with the unmet demand affecting predominantly low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). Rapid surgical care scale-up is required in LMICs to strengthen health system capabilities, but adequate financing for this expansion is lacking. This article explores the critical role of innovative financing in scaling up surgical care in LMICs. We locate surgical system financing by using a modified fiscal space analysis. Through an analysis of published studies and case studies on recent trends in the financing of global health systems, we provide a conceptual framework that could assist policy-makers in health systems to develop innovative financing strategies to mobilise additional investments for scale-up of surgical care in LMICs. This is the first time such an analysis has been applied to the funding of surgical care. Innovative financing in global surgery is an untapped potential funding source for expanding fiscal space for health systems and financing scale-up of surgical care in LMICs.

Surgical Care at Rural District Hospitals in Low- And Middle-Income Countries: An Essential Component of Universal Health Coverage

Surgical care has long been considered too exclusive and uneconomical to be a public health priority, despite one third of the total global burden of disease being attributed to surgical conditions. Furthermore, five billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and timely surgical care, the majority of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) including sub-Saharan Africa.
The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery has highlighted surgical care as an important component of universal health coverage, urging the world to make surgical, anaesthetic and obstetric services a priority on the global health agenda. In 2015, the World Health Assembly passed a declaration stating that timely and safe essential and emergency surgical care (EESC) was a key component of universal health coverage and that district hospitals should be the backbone of EESC. The World Bank further described 44 EESC procedures, 28 of which were categorised as district-level procedures. In order to achieve equitable access to EESC, strengthening surgical health systems, especially at the district level, requires prioritisation.

Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 on Progress Towards Achieving Global Surgery Goals

Introduction: In the 5 months since it began, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on health systems around the world including surgery. Competing health objectives and resource redeployment threaten to retard the scale-up of surgical services in low- and middle-income countries where access to safe, affordable and timely care is low. The key aspiration of the Lancet Commission on global surgery was promotion of resilience in surgical systems. The current pandemic provides an opportunity to stress-test those systems and identify fault-lines that may not be easily apparent outside of times of crisis.

Methods: We endeavoured to explore vulnerable points in surgical systems learning from the experience of past outbreaks, using examples from the current pandemic, and make recommendations for future health emergencies. The 6-component framework for surgical systems planning was used to categorise the effects of COVID-19 on surgical systems, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries. Key vulnerabilities were identified and recommendations were made for the current pandemic and for the future.

Results: Multiple stress points were identified throughout all of the 6 components of surgical systems. The impact is expected to be highest in the workforce, service delivery and infrastructure domains. Innovative new technologies should be employed to allow consistent, high-quality surgical care to continue even in times of crisis.

Conclusions: If robust progress towards global surgery goals for 2030 is to continue, the stress points identified should be reinforced. An ongoing process of reappraisal and fortification will keep surgical systems in low- and middle-income countries responsive to “old threats and new challenges”. Multiple opportunities exist to help realise the dream of surgical systems resilient to external shocks.

Critical Adjustments in a Department of Orthopaedics Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Purpose: SARS-CoV-2’s new scenario has forced health systems to work under extreme stress urging to perform a complete reorganization of the way our means and activities were organized. The orthopaedic and trauma units have rescheduled their activities to help SARS-CoV-2 units, but trauma patients require also treatment, and no standardized protocols have been established.

Methods: A single-centre cross-sectional study was performed in a tertiary hospital. Two different periods of time were analyzed: a two week period of time in March 2019 (pre-SARS-CoV-2) and the same period in March 2020 (SARS-CoV-2 pandemic time). Outpatient’s data, emergency activity, surgical procedures, and admissions were evaluated. Surgeons’ and patient’s opinion was also evaluated using a survey.

Results: A total of ~ 16k (15,953) patients were evaluated. Scheduled clinical appointments decreased by ~ 22%. Urgent consultations and discharge from clinics also descended (~ 37% and ~ 20% respectively). Telemedicine was used in 90% of outpatient clinical evaluations. No elective surgical procedures during SARS-CoV-2 time were scheduled, and subtracting the effect of elective surgeries, there was a reduction of inpatient surgeries, from ~ 85% to ~ 59%. Patients delayed trauma assistance more than 48 hours in 13 cases (35%). Pre-operative admission for hip fractures decreased in ten hours on average. Finally, surveys stated that patients were more in favour than surgeons were to this new way to evaluate orthopaedic and trauma patients based strongly on telemedicine.

Conclusion: Detailed protocols should be standardized for surgical departments during the pandemic. This paper offers a general view in how this virus affects an orthopaedic unit and could serve as a protocol and example for orthopaedic and trauma units. Even in the worst scenario, an orthopaedic and trauma unit could offer an effective, efficient, and quality service. SARS-CoV-2 will set up a new paradigm for health care in orthopaedics and trauma.

Current Efforts and Challenges Facing Responses to 2019-nCoV in Africa

The novel coronavirus is a pandemic that has started to creep into Africa thus making the virus a truly global, health security threat. The number of new 2019-nCoV cases has been rising in Africa, though currently lower than the cases reported outside the region. African countries have activated their Emergency Operations Centres to coordinate responses and preparedness activities to the pandemic. A series of measures such as restricting travel, case detection and contact tracing, mandatory quarantine, guidance and information to the public among other efforts are being implemented across Africa. However, the presence of porous borders, the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, poverty, poor health literacy, infodemic and family clustering, and most of all, weak health systems, may make containment challenging. It is important for African countries to continue to intensify efforts and address the challenges to effectively respond to the uncertainty the pandemic poses.

Challenges in Public Health Rapid Response Team Management

The International Health Regulations (2005) dictate the need for states parties to establish capacity to respond promptly
and effectively to public health risks. Public health rapid response teams (RRTs) can fulfill this need as a component of a
larger public health emergency response infrastructure. However, lack of a standardized approach to establishing and
managing RRTs can lead to substantial delays in effective response measures. As part of the Global Health Security
Agenda, national governments have sought to develop and more formally institute their RRTs. RRT challenges were
identified from 21 countries spanning 4 continents from 2016 to 2018 through direct observation of RRTs deployed
during public health emergencies, discussions with RRT managers involved in outbreak response, and during formal
RRT management training workshops. One major challenge identified is the development and maintenance of an RRT
roster to ensure deployable surge staff identification, selection, and availability. Another challenge is ensuring that
RRT members are trained and have the relevant competencies to be effective in the field. Finally, the lack of defined
RRT standard operating procedures covering both nonemergency maintenance measures and the multistage emergency
response processes required for RRT function can delay the RRT’s response time and effectiveness. These findings
highlight the importance of planning to preemptively address these challenges to ensure rapid and effective response
measures, ultimately strengthening global health security.

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

Surgical Task-Sharing to Non-specialist Physicians in Low-Resource Settings Globally: A Systematic Review of the Literature

As the global community increasingly recognizes the large and unmet burden of surgical disease, a new emphasis is being placed on strengthening the health system at the first-level hospital. The shortage of surgical care providers at this district and rural level can be met by surgical task-shifting/sharing to non-physician clinicians (NPCs) and non-specialist physicians (NSPs). While the role of NPCs in low–middle-income countries (LMICs), in particular in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has been well documented in the literature, there has been little focus on NSPs. In addition to providing essential surgical services, this physician cadre also practices generalist medicine, an advantage at the first-level hospital. The present study seeks to explore where, across all country income groups, NSPs are providing surgical services and what additional surgical training, if any, is available in each identified country.

A systematic review of the literature was performed, following PRISMA guidelines. Medline, EMBASE, EBM Reviews, and CINAHL were searched. Including hand-searching for further references, 53 publications met inclusion/exclusion criteria and were identified for data extraction purposes. Gray literature was also explored within the time limits for this study.

Surgical task-shifting/sharing to NSPs occurs across all country income groups; some provide surgical obstetrics, while others also provide a broader scope of surgical services. Within LMIC countries, the majority are in SSA. In SSA, 16 of 54 countries were included in the reviewed articles, only 4 of which (Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone) have a formal surgical program beyond the regular medical officer/general practitioner training. Canada and Australia have established programs for both surgical obstetrics and the broader scope, while the USA has several programs for surgical obstetrics and is developing a new, broad-scope program.

This study has demonstrated that NSPs are providing surgical services across all income groups, with varying degrees of additional training specific to the surgical needs of their district/rural location. To “close the gap” in needed surgical services at the first-level hospital, more task-sharing needs to occur to both NSPs (the focus of this study) and NPCs. Collaboration between practitioners and training programs, given the shared challenges and practice environments, would help support task-sharing at the first-level hospital and improve access to the 5 billion underserved people.

Globalization of national surgical, obstetric and anesthesia plans: the critical link between health policy and action in global surgery

Efforts from the developed world to improve surgical, anesthesia and obstetric care in low- and middle-income countries have evolved from a primarily volunteer mission trip model to a sustainable health system strengthening approach as private and public stakeholders recognize the enormous health toll and financial burden of surgical disease. The National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Plan (NSOAP) has been developed as a policy strategy for countries to address, in part, the health burden of diseases amenable to surgical care, but these plans have not developed in isolation. The NSOAP has become a phenomenon of globalization as a broad range of partners – individuals and institutions – help in both NSOAP formulation, implementation and financing. As the nexus between policy and action in the field of global surgery, the NSOAP reflects a special commitment by state actors to make progress on global goals such as Universal Health Coverage and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This requires a continued global commitment involving genuine partnerships that embrace the collective strengths of both national and global actors to deliver sustained, safe and affordable high-quality surgical care for all poor, rural and marginalized people.