Identifying Breast Cancer Care Quality Measures for a Cancer Facility in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Results of a Systematic Literature Review and Modified Delphi Process

The burden of cancer is growing in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), including sub-Saharan Africa. Ensuring the delivery of high-quality cancer care in such regions is a pressing concern. There is a need for strategies to identify meaningful and relevant quality measures that are applicable to and usable for quality measurement and improvement in resource-constrained settings.

To identify quality measures for breast cancer care at Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (BCCOE) in Rwanda, we used a modified Delphi process engaging two panels of experts, one with expertise in breast cancer evidence and measures used in high-income countries and one with expertise in cancer care delivery in Rwanda.

Our systematic review of the literature yielded no publications describing breast cancer quality measures developed in a low-income country, but it did provide 40 quality measures, which we adapted for relevance to our setting. After two surveys, one conference call, and one in-person meeting, 17 measures were identified as relevant to pathology, staging and treatment planning, surgery, chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, palliative care, and retention in care. Successes of the process included participation by a diverse set of global experts and engagement of the BCCOE community in quality measurement and improvement. Anticipated challenges include the need to continually refine these measures as resources, protocols, and measurement capacity rapidly evolve in Rwanda.

A modified Delphi process engaging both global and local expertise was a promising strategy to identify quality measures for breast cancer in Rwanda. The process and resulting measures may also be relevant for other LMIC cancer facilities. Next steps include validation of these measures in a retrospective cohort of patients with breast cancer.

Delivery Mode for Prolonged, Obstructed Labour Resulting in Obstetric Fistula: A Retrospective Review of 4396 Women in East and Central Africa

Objective: To evaluate the mode of delivery and stillbirth rates over time among women with obstetric fistula.

Design: Retrospective record review.

Setting: Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Zambia and Ethiopia.

Population: A total of 4396 women presenting with obstetric fistulas for repair who delivered previously in facilities between 1990 and 2014.

Methods: Retrospective review of trends and associations between mode of delivery and stillbirth, focusing on caesarean section (CS), assisted vaginal deliveries and spontaneous vaginal deliveries.

Main outcome measures: Mode of delivery, stillbirth.

Results: Out of 4396 women with fistula, 3695 (84.1%) delivered a stillborn baby. Among mothers with fistula giving birth to a stillborn baby, the CS rate (overall 54.8%, 2027/3695) rose from 45% (162/361) in 1990-94 to 64% (331/514) in 2010-14. This increase occurred at the expense of assisted vaginal delivery (overall 18.3%, 676/3695), which declined from 32% (115/361) to 6% (31/514).

Conclusions: In Eastern and Central Africa, CS is increasingly performed on women with obstructed labour whose babies have already died in utero. Contrary to international recommendations, alternatives such as vacuum extraction, forceps and destructive delivery are decreasingly used. Unless uterine rupture is suspected, CS should be avoided in obstructed labour with intrauterine fetal death to avoid complications related to CS scars in subsequent pregnancies. Increasingly, women with obstetric fistula add a history of unnecessary CS to their already grim experiences of prolonged, obstructed labour and stillbirth.

Validating the Global Surgery Geographical Accessibility Indicator: Differences in Modeled Versus Patient-Reported Travel Times

Background: Since long travel times to reach health facilities are associated with worse outcomes, geographic accessibility is one of the six core global surgery indicators; this corresponds to the second of the “Three Delays Framework,” namely “delay in reaching a health facility.” Most attempts to estimate this indicator have been based on geographical information systems (GIS) algorithms. The aim of our study was to compare GIS derived estimates to self-reported travel times for patients traveling to a district hospital in rural Rwanda for emergency obstetric care.

Methods: Our study includes 664 women who traveled to undergo a Cesarean delivery in Kirehe, Rwanda. We compared self-reported travel time from home to the hospital (excluding waiting time) with GIS estimated travel times, which were computed using the World Health Organization tool AccessMod, using linear regression.

Results: The majority of patients used multiple modes of transportation (walking = 48.5%, public transport = 74.2%, private transport = 2.9%, and ambulance 70.6%). Self-reported times were longer than GIS estimates by a factor of 1.49 (95% CI 1.40-1.57). Concordance was higher when the GIS model took into account that all patients in Rwanda are referred via their health center (β = 1.12; 95% CI 1.05-1.18).

Conclusions: To our knowledge, in this largest to date GIS validation study for geographical access to healthcare in low- and middle-income countries, a standard GIS model was found to significantly underestimate real travel time, which likely is in part because it does not model the actual route patients are travelling. Therefore, previous studies of 2-h access to surgery will need to be interpreted with caution, and future studies should take local travelling conditions into account.

Availability, procurement, training, usage, maintenance and complications of electrosurgical units and laparoscopic equipment in 12 African countries

Background: Strategies are needed to increase the availability of surgical equipment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study was undertaken to explore the current availability, procurement, training, usage, maintenance and complications encountered during use of electrosurgical units (ESUs) and laparoscopic equipment.

Methods: A survey was conducted among surgeons attending the annual meeting of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) in December 2017 and the annual meeting of the Surgical Society of Kenya (SSK) in March 2018. Biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) were surveyed and maintenance records collected in Kenya between February and March 2018.

Results: Among 80 participants, there were 59 surgeons from 12 African countries and 21 BMETs from Kenya. Thirty-six maintenance records were collected. ESUs were available for all COSECSA and SSK surgeons, but only 49 per cent (29 of 59) had access to working laparoscopic equipment. Reuse of disposable ESU accessories and difficulties obtaining carbon dioxide were identified. More than three-quarters of surgeons (79 per cent) indicated that maintenance of ESUs was available, but only 59 per cent (16 of 27) confirmed maintenance of laparoscopic equipment at their centre.

Conclusion: Despite the availability of surgical equipment, significant gaps in access to maintenance were apparent in these LMICs, limiting implementation of open and laparoscopic surgery.

Prehospital Epidemiology and Management of Injured Children in Kigali, Rwanda

Introduction: Paediatric injuries are a major cause of mortality and disability worldwide, yet little information exists regarding its epidemiology or prehospital management in low-income and middle-income countries. We aimed to describe the paediatric injuries seen and managed by the prehospital ambulance service, Service d’Aide Medicale d’Urgence (SAMU), in Kigali, Rwanda over more than 3 years.

Methods: A retrospective, descriptive analysis was conducted of all injured children managed by SAMU in the prehospital setting between December 2012 and April 2016.

Results: SAMU responded to a total of 636 injured children, 10% of all patients seen. The incidence of paediatric injury in Kigali, Rwanda was 140 injuries per 100 000 children. 65% were male and the average age 13.5 (±5.3). Most patients were between 15 and 19 years old (56%). The most common causes of injuries were road traffic incidents (RTIs) (447, 72%), falls (70, 11%) and assaults (50, 8%). Most RTIs involved pedestrians (251, 56%), while 15% (65) involved a bicycle. Anatomical injuries included trauma to the head (330, 52%), lower limb (280, 44%) and upper limb (179, 28%). Common interventions included provision of pain medications (445, 70%), intravenous fluids (217, 34%) and stabilisation with cervical collar (190, 30%).

Conclusion: In Kigali, RTIs were the most frequent cause of injuries to children requiring prehospital response with most RTIs involving pedestrians. Rwanda has recently instituted several programmes to reduce the impact of paediatric injuries especially with regard to RTIs. These include changes in traffic laws and increased road safety initiatives.

Diagnosis and management of 365 ureteric injuries following obstetric and gynecologic surgery in resource-limited settings.

Ureteric injuries are among the most serious complications of pelvic surgery. The incidence in low-resource settings is not well documented.This retrospective review analyzes a cohort of 365 ureteric injuries with ureterovaginal fistulas in 353 women following obstetric and gynecologic operations in 11 countries in Africa and Asia, all low-resource settings. The patients with ureteric injury were stratified into three groups according to the initial surgery: (a) obstetric operations, (b) gynecologic operations, and (c) vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) repairs.The 365 ureteric injuries in this series comprise 246 (67.4%) after obstetric procedures, 65 (17.8%) after gynecologic procedures, and 54 (14.8%) after repair of obstetric fistulas. Demographic characteristics show clear differences between women with iatrogenic injuries and women with obstetric fistulas. The study describes abdominal ureter reimplantation and other treatment procedures. Overall surgical results were good: 92.9% of women were cured (326/351), 5.4% were healed with some residual incontinence (19/351), and six failed (1.7%).Ureteric injuries after obstetric and gynecologic operations are not uncommon. Unlike in high-resource contexts, in low-resource settings obstetric procedures are most often associated with urogenital fistula. Despite resource limitations, diagnosis and treatment of ureteric injuries is possible, with good success rates. Training must emphasize optimal surgical techniques and different approaches to assisted vaginal delivery.

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

Creation, Implementation, and Assessment of a General Thoracic Surgery Simulation Course in Rwanda.

The primary objective was to provide proof of concept of conducting thoracic surgical simulation in a low-middle income country. Secondary objectives were to accelerate general thoracic surgery skills acquisition by general surgery residents and sustain simulation surgery teaching through a website, simulation models, and teaching of local faculty.

Five training models were created for use in a low-middle income country setting and implemented during on-site courses with Rwandan general surgery residents. A website was created as a supplement to the on-site teaching. All participants completed a course knowledge assessment before and after the simulation and feedback/confidence surveys. Descriptive and univariate analyses were performed on participants’ responses.

Twenty-three participants completed the simulation course. Eight (35%) had previous training with the course models. All training levels were represented. Participants reported higher rates of meaningful confidence, defined as moderate to complete on a Likert scale, for all simulated thoracic procedures (p < 0.05). The overall mean knowledge assessment score improved from 42.5% presimulation to 78.6% postsimulation, (p < 0.0001). When stratified by procedure, the mean scores for each simulated procedure showed statistically significant improvement, except for ruptured diaphragm repair (p = 0.45).

General thoracic surgery simulation provides a practical, inexpensive, and expedited learning experience in settings lacking experienced faculty and fellowship training opportunities. Resident feedback showed enhanced confidence and knowledge of thoracic procedures suggesting simulation surgery could be an effective tool in expanding the resident knowledge base and preparedness for performing clinically needed thoracic procedures. Repeated skills exposure remains a challenge for achieving sustainable progress.

Risk of Catastrophic Health Expenditure in Rwandan Surgical Patients with Peritonitis.

Surgical procedures are cost-effective compared with various medical and public health interventions. While peritonitis often requires surgery, little is known regarding the associated costs, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The aim of this study was to determine in-hospital charges for patients with peritonitis and if patients are at risk of catastrophic health expenditure.

As part of a larger study examining the epidemiology and outcomes of patients with peritonitis at a referral hospital in Rwanda, patients undergoing operation for peritonitis were enrolled and hospital charges were examined. The primary outcome was the percentage of patients at risk for catastrophic health expenditure. Logistic regression was used to determine the association of various factors with risk for catastrophic health expenditure.

Over a 6-month period, 280 patients underwent operation for peritonitis. In-hospital charges were available for 245 patients. A total of 240 (98%) patients had health insurance. Median total hospital charges were 308.1 USD, and the median amount paid by patients was 26.9 USD. Thirty-three (14%) patients were at risk of catastrophic health expenditure based on direct medical expenses. Estimating out-of-pocket non-medical expenses, 68 (28%) patients were at risk of catastrophic health expenditure. Unplanned reoperation was associated with increased risk of catastrophic health expenditure (p < 0.001), whereas patients with community-based health insurance had decreased risk of catastrophic health expenditure (p < 0.001).

The median hospital charges paid out-of-pocket by patients with health insurance were small in relation to total charges. A significant number of patients with peritonitis are at risk of catastrophic health expenditure.