Views from Multidisciplinary Oncology Clinicians on Strengthening Cancer Care Delivery Systems in Tanzania

In response to the increasing burden of cancer in Tanzania, the Ministry of Health Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children launched National Cancer Treatment Guidelines (TNCTG) in February 2020. The guidelines aimed to improve and standardize oncology care in the country. At Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), we developed a theory-informed implementation strategy to promote guideline-concordant care. As part of the situation analysis for implementation strategy development, we conducted focus group discussions to evaluate clinical systems and contextual factors that influence guideline-based practice prior to launching of TNCTG.

In June 2019, three focus group discussions were conducted with a total of 21 oncology clinicians at ORCI, stratified by profession. A discussion guide was used to stimulate dialogue about facilitators and barriers to delivery of guideline concordant care. Discussions were audio recorded, transcribed, translated, and analyzed using thematic framework analysis.

Participants identified factors both within the inner context of ORCI clinical systems and outside of ORCI. Themes within the clinical systems included: capacity and infrastructure, information technology, communication, efficiency and quality of services provided. Contextual factors external to ORCI included: inter-institutional coordination, oncology capacity in peripheral hospitals, public awareness and beliefs, and financial barriers. Participants provided pragmatic suggestions for strengthening cancer care delivery in Tanzania.

Our results highlight several barriers and facilitators within and outside of the clinical systems at ORCI that may affect uptake of the TNCTG. Our findings were used to inform a broader guideline implementation strategy, in effort to improve uptake of the TNCTGs at ORCI.

Invasive breast Cancer treatment in Tanzania: landscape assessment to prepare for implementation of standardized treatment guidelines

Incidence of breast cancer continues to rise in low- and middle-income countries, with data from the East African country of Tanzania predicting an 82% increase in breast cancer from 2017 to 2030. We aimed to characterize treatment pathways, receipt of therapies, and identify high-value interventions to increase concordance with international guidelines and avert unnecessary breast cancer deaths.

Primary data were extracted from medical charts of patients presenting to Bugando Medical Center, Tanzania, with breast concerns and suspected to have breast cancer. Clinicopathologic features were summarized with descriptive statistics. A Poisson model was utilized to estimate prevalence ratios for variables predicted to affect receipt of life-saving adjuvant therapies and completion of therapies. International and Tanzanian guidelines were compared to current care patterns in the domains of lymph node evaluation, metastases evaluation, histopathological diagnosis, and receptor testing to yield concordance scores and suggest future areas of focus.

We identified 164 patients treated for suspected breast cancer from April 2015–January 2019. Women were predominantly post-menopausal (43%) and without documented insurance (70%). Those with a confirmed histopathology diagnosis (69%) were 3 times more likely to receive adjuvant therapy (PrR [95% CI]: 3.0 [1.7–5.4]) and those documented to have insurance were 1.8 times more likely to complete adjuvant therapy (1.8 [1.0–3.2]). Out of 164 patients, 4% (n = 7) received concordant care based on the four evaluated management domains. The first most common reason for non-concordance was lack of hormone receptor testing as 91% (n = 144) of cases did not undergo this testing. The next reason was lack of lymph node evaluation (44% without axillary staging) followed by absence of abdominopelvic imaging in those with symptoms (35%) and lack of histopathological confirmation (31%).

Patient-specific clinical data from Tanzania show limitations of current breast cancer management including axillary staging, receipt of formal diagnosis, lack of predictive biomarker testing, and low rates of adjuvant therapy completion. These findings highlight the need to adapt and adopt interventions to increase concordance with guidelines including improving capacity for pathology, developing complete staging pathways, and ensuring completion of prescribed adjuvant therapies.

Neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa – Historical Background and Development of Training Programs in East Africa.

Modern Neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has its roots in the 1960s when Neurosurgeons from Europe set up Units in West Africa and East Africa. While it would be unfair to give credit to some individuals, and inadvertently not naming others, Prof Abdeslam El Khamlichi (1) in his book, “Emerging Neurosurgery in Africa,” quoting Professor Adelola Adeloye (2), provided a valuable account: A French Neurosurgeon, Dr. Courson, set up the first neurosurgical unit in West Africa in Senegal in 1967. He was joined by two other French neurosurgeons, Dr. Claude Cournil and Dr. Alliez, in 1972 and 1975. They trained the first Senegalese Neurosurgeon, Dr. Mamadou Gueye, who joined as a trainee in 1977. Dr. Gueye was to become the first Senegalese Professor and Chairman of the Neurosurgery Department.


In Ivory Coast, the first unit was set up by Dr. Claude Cournil in Abidjan in 1976, having left Dakar. He joined the first Ivorian Neurosurgeon, Dr. Kanga, who set up practice in 1974 in Abidjan. In Ghana, the first Neurosurgical Unit was set up by Ghanaian Neurosurgeon Dr. Osman Mustaffah in 1969. In Nigeria, the first units were set up by Nigerian Neurosurgeon Dr. Latunde Odeku started the service in Ibadan in 1962. He was joined by two other pioneer neurosurgeons, Dr. Adelola Adeloye in 1967 and Dr. Adebayo Ajayi Olumide in 1974. A second department was set up in Lagos by Dr. de Silva and Dr. Nosiru Ojikutu; in 1968, Dr. Samuel C. Ohaegbulam started the third service in Enugu in 1974 (2). In East Africa, Neurosurgical procedures had been carried out by Dr. Peter Clifford, an ENT surgeon, in 1955 (3).
In Kenya, modern Neurosurgery was introduced by Dr. Renato Ruberti, an Italian Neurosurgeon from Napoli, who set up Private practice in the European hospital in Nairobi in 1967 part-time at the King George V Hospital, which served as the National Hospital. He was joined in 1972 by Dr. Jawahar Dar, from New Delhi. The Indian Dr. Jawahar Dar set up the First Neurosurgery Unit at the King George V hospital, renamed Kenyatta National Hospital while teaching at the University of Nairobi. They were joined by Dr. Gerishom Sande, the first Kenyan Neurosurgeon following his training in Belfast, in 1979 (3).
In Uganda, on advice and recommendation of the renowned British Neurosurgeon, Professor Valentine Logue of the Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London, was invited by the government in 1968 to advise the establishment of neurosurgery at Mulago Hospital, Dr. Ian Bailey moved to Uganda. He was instrumental in establishing the first neurosurgical unit in Uganda at Mulago Hospital in 1969, equipped with 54 beds for the department of neurosurgery and cardiothoracic surgery (4). He was joined by the first Ugandan Neurosurgeon, Dr. Jovan Kiryabirwe, in 1971, who became the first indigenous Ugandan Neurosurgeon and the first African Neurosurgeon in East and Central Africa. He attended medical school at Makerere University School of Medicine in Kampala and subsequently completed postgraduate training at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Scotland; he also trained at Queens Square with Professor Logue (5).
In Tanzania, the first step towards modern neurosurgery was the establishment of orthopedic and trauma services in 1971 at the
Muhimbili Medical Center (MMC) by Professor Philemon Sarangi (6). At the time, orthopedic surgeons treated most of the cranial and spinal trauma. Over the next few years, several foreign neurosurgeons from Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union spent short stints practicing neurosurgery at MMC. Dr. Reulen, Professor and Chairman of Neurosurgery at University Hospital in Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland, and later in Munich, Germany, provided the impetus for the establishment of a neurosurgery program at MMC teaching in hospital of the University of Dar-es-Salaam and creating a “sandwich” program with training split between national and international centers. He trained Dr. Simpert Kinunda, a plastic surgeon who later became the first Tanzanian with any neurosurgical training.
Peter Kadyanji was the first fully trained Tanzanian neurosurgeon, and he joined MMC in 1985 after completing his training in the Soviet Union. Yadon M. Kohi followed in Kadyanji’s footsteps, graduating from Makerere University and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Dar-es-Salaam. He obtained his FRCS in Ireland and Glasgow and later was appointed as the General Director of the National Commission for Science and Technology. Dr. Mlay was the third neurosurgeon to join MMC in 1989, with a specialty in pediatric neurosurgery. Professor Sarungi was essential to establish the Muhimbili Orthopedic Institute (MOI), which was opened in 1993 and later combined with MMC to become Muhimbili National Hospital, the national institute of neurosurgery, orthopedics, and traumatology.
Several neurosurgeons have practiced at MOI since its founding, including Dr. Abednego Kinasha and Dr. Joseph Kahamba. They, along with Professor Laurence Museru, the Medical Director of MOI, played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for training the current generation of neurosurgeons in Tanzania (6). Contemporary, locally trained neurosurgeons form the core of the specialized expertise in the country. They provide neurosurgical training and care at MOI at several healthcare institutions around the country. There are currently 20 neurosurgeons in the country, 18 of whom are in public service, one at a Mission hospital in Moshi, one in a private hospital (the Aga Khan University Hospital) Dar-es-salaam, and one at the Mnazi Mmoja/NED Institute in Zanzibar. No dedicated neuroscience nurses or beds are available in the country; however, currently, there are eight neurosurgical intensive care unit beds at MOI. An additional 14 at the new hospital within the Muhimbili hospital complex in Dar-es-Salaam opened in 2018. There are 5 CT scanners and 3 MRI scanners available across the country, mainly in Dar-es-Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania.
In Zimbabwe, Dr. Lawrence Frazer Levy, a British neurosurgeon, started in 1956 (Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia). He set up the Neurosurgery Department at the Central Hospital in Harare (Salisbury), becoming its first Professor and Chairman in 1971. He was joined by a young Scottish neurosurgeon, Dr. Carol Auchtertonie, responsible for starting the second unit at the European Hospital in Harare. The two served patients from Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia, Malawi, and others for quite a long time (2). From these early beginnings, progress in neurosurgery remained slow, with only a handful of neurosurgeons available in SSA. In 1959, Professor Adelola Adeloye noted that there were only 20 neurosurgeons all across Africa, the majority practicing in South Africa (2). It is against this backdrop that the need to develop neurosurgical care in Sub-Saharan Africa came into focus.

Strengthening emergency care knowledge and skills in Uganda and Tanzania with the WHO-ICRC Basic Emergency Care Course

Background There is a pressing need for emergency care (EC) training in low-resource settings. We assessed the feasibility and acceptability of training frontline healthcare providers in emergency care with the World Health Organization (WHO)-International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Basic Emergency Care (BEC) Course using a training-of-trainers (ToT) model with local providers.

Methods Quasiexperimental pretest and post-test study of an educational intervention at four first-level district hospitals in Tanzania and Uganda conducted in March and April of 2017. A 2-day ToT course was held in both Tanzania and Uganda. These were immediately followed by a 5-day BEC Course, taught by the newly trained trainers, at two hospitals in each country. Both prior to and immediately following each training, participants took assessments on EC knowledge and rated their confidence level in using a variety of EC skills to treat patients. Qualitative feedback from participants was collected and summarised.

Results Fifty-nine participants completed the four BEC Courses. All participants were current healthcare workers at the selected hospitals. An additional 10 participants completed a ToT course. EC knowledge scores were significantly higher for participants immediately following the training compared with their scores just prior to the training when assessed across all study sites (Z=6.23, p<0.001). Across all study sites, mean EC confidence ratings increased by 0.74 points on a 4-point Likert scale (95% CI 0.63 to 0.84, p<0.001). Main qualitative feedback included: positive reception of the sessions, especially hands-on skills; request for additional BEC trainings; request for obstetric topics; and need for more allotted training time.

Conclusions Implementation of the WHO-ICRC BEC Course by locally trained providers was feasible, acceptable and well received at four sites in East Africa. Participation in the training course was associated with a significant increase in EC knowledge and confidence at all four study sites. The BEC is a low-cost intervention that can improve EC knowledge and skill confidence across provider cadres.

Assessment of clinical and radiographic outcomes following retrograde versus antegrade nailing of infraisthmic femoral shaft fractures without the use of intraoperative fluoroscopy in Tanzania

To compare clinical and radiographic outcomes following antegrade versus retrograde intramedullary nailing of infraisthmic femoral shaft fractures.

Secondary analysis of prospective cohort study.

Tertiary hospital in Tanzania.

Adult patients with infraisthmic diaphyseal femur fractures.

Antegrade or retrograde SIGN intramedullary nail.

Health-related quality of life (HRQOL), radiographic healing, knee range of motion, pain, and alignment (defined as less than or equal to 5 degrees of angular deformity in both coronal and sagittal planes) assessed at 6, 12, 24, and 52 weeks postoperatively.

Of 160 included patients, 141 (88.1%) had 1-year follow-up and were included in analyses: 42 (29.8%) antegrade, 99 (70.2%) retrograde. Antegrade-nailed patients had more loss of coronal alignment (P = .026), but less knee pain at 6 months (P = .017) and increased knee flexion at 6 weeks (P = .021). There were no significant differences in reoperations, HRQOL, hip pain, knee extension, radiographic healing, or sagittal alignment.

Antegrade nailing of infraisthmic femur fractures had higher incidence of alignment loss, but no detectable differences in HRQOL, pain, radiographic healing, or reoperation. Retrograde nailing was associated with increased knee pain and decreased knee range of motion at early time points, but this dissipated by 1 year. To our knowledge, this is the first study to prospectively compare outcomes over 1 year in patients treated with antegrade versus retrograde SIGN intramedullary nailing of infraisthmic femur fractures.

Surgical service monitoring and quality control systems at district hospitals in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia: a mixed-methods study

Background In low-income and middle-income countries, an estimated one in three clinical adverse events happens in non-complex situations and 83% are preventable. Poor quality of care also leads to inefficient use of human, material and financial resources for health. Improving outcomes and mitigating the risk of adverse events require effective monitoring and quality control systems.

Aim To assess the state of surgical monitoring and quality control systems at district hospitals (DHs) in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

Methods A mixed-methods cross-sectional study of 75 DHs: Malawi (22), Tanzania (30) and Zambia (23). This included a questionnaire, interviews and visual inspection of operating theatre (OT) registers. Data were collected on monitoring and quality systems for surgical activity, processes and outcomes, as well as perceived barriers.

Results 53% (n=40/75) of DHs use more than one OT register to record surgical operations. With the exception of standardised printed OT registers in Zambia, the register format (often handwritten books) and type of data collected varied between DHs. Monthly reports were seldom analysed by surgical teams. Less than 30% of all surveyed DHs used surgical safety checklists (n=22/75), and <15% (n=11/75) performed surgical audits. 73% (n=22/30) of DHs in Tanzania and less than half of DHs in Malawi (n=11/22) and Zambia (n=10/23) conducted surgical case reviews. Reports of surgical morbidity and mortality were compiled in 65% (n=15/23) of Zambian DHs, and in less than one-third of DHs in Tanzania (n=9/30) and Malawi (n=4/22). Reported barriers to monitoring and quality systems included an absence of formalised guidelines, continuous training opportunities as well as inadequate accountability mechanisms.

Conclusions Surgical monitoring and quality control systems were not standard among sampled DHs. Improvements are needed in standardisation of quality measures used; and in ensuring data completeness, analysis and utilisation for improving patient outcomes.

A study protocol for a Pilot Masked, Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluating Locally-applied Gentamicin versus Saline in Open Tibia Fractures (pGO-Tibia) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Open tibia fractures are a major source of disability in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) due to the high incidence of complications, particularly infection and chronic osteomyelitis. One proposed adjunctive measure to reduce infection is prophylactic local antibiotic delivery, which can achieve much higher concentrations at the surgical site than can safely be achieved with systemic administration. Animal studies and retrospective clinical studies support the use of gentamicin for this purpose, but no high-quality clinical trials have been conducted to date in high- or low-income settings.

We describe a protocol for a pilot study conducted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to assess the feasibility of a single-center masked randomized controlled trial to compare the efficacy of locally applied gentamicin to placebo for the prevention of fracture-related infection in open tibial shaft fractures.

The results of this study will inform the design and feasibility of a definitive trial to address the use of local gentamicin in open tibial fractures. If proven effective, local gentamicin would be a low-cost strategy to reduce complications and disability from open tibial fractures that could impact care in both high- and low-income countries.

Placental pathology and maternal factors associated with stillbirth: An institutional based case-control study in Northern Tanzania

To determine the placental pathologies and maternal factors associated with stillbirth at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, a tertiary referral hospital in Northern Tanzania.

A 1:2 unmatched case-control study was carried out among deliveries over an 8-month period. Stillbirths were a case group and live births were the control group. Respective placentas of the newborns from both groups were histopathologically analyzed. Maternal information was collected via chart review. Mean and standard deviation were used to summarize the numerical variables while frequency and percentage were used to summarize categorical variables. Crude and adjusted logistic regressions were done to test the association between each variable and the risk of stillbirth.

A total of 2305 women delivered during the study period. Their mean age was 30 ± 5.9 years. Of all deliveries, 2207 (95.8%) were live births while 98 (4.2%) were stillbirths. Of these, 96 stillbirths (cases) and 192 live births (controls) were enrolled. The average gestational age for the enrolled cases was 33.8 ±3.2 weeks while that of the controls was 36.3±3.6 weeks, (p-value 0.244). Of all stillbirths, nearly two thirds 61(63.5%) were males while the females were 35(36.5%). Of the stillbirth, 41were fresh stillbirths while 55 were macerated. The risk of stillbirth was significantly associated with lower maternal education [aOR (95% CI): 5.22(2.01–13.58)], history of stillbirth [aOR (95%CI): 3.17(1.20–8.36)], lower number of antenatal visits [aOR (95%CI): 6.68(2.71–16.48), pre/eclampsia [aOR (95%CI): 4.06(2.03–8.13)], and ante partum haemorrhage [OR (95%CI): 2.39(1.04–5.53)]. Placental pathology associated with stillbirth included utero-placental vascular pathology and acute chorioamnionitis.

Educating the mothers on the importance of regular antenatal clinic attendance, monitoring and managing maternal conditions during antenatal periods should be emphasized. Placentas from stillbirths should be histo-pathologically evaluated to better understand the possible aetiology of stillbirths.

Efficacy of Trans-abdominis Plane Block for Post Cesarean Delivery Analgesia in Low-income Countries: a Phase Three Feasibility Study.

Background: Optimal pain control in a parturient woman undergoing caesarean section is essential for preventing complications such as venous thrombo-embolism and improving maternal satisfaction, early
functional recovery, mother-baby bond and breastfeeding. Intentional pain assessment and adequate management to acceptable pain severity using multimodal methods can be achieved in low-middle
income countries (LMICs).

Aim: Is to assess the efficacy of transversus abdominis plane (TAP) block and satisfaction post-cesarean delivery analgesia at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Low-Income countries.
Methods: The study population consisted of 72 participants who met criteria posted for elective and emergency caesarean section. They were blindly assigned into two groups: group A was the interventional group which received TAP block and standard pain management according to local protocols and consisted of 41 participants and group B was the control group which received standard pain management without TAP block and consisted of 31 participants. In Group A 30ml of 0.25% bupivacaine single shot was deposited in the TAP plane bilaterally for postoperative analgesia. Participants were randomized using a parallel method. Their demographics were recorded before surgery and visual analogue scale was used to assess postoperative pain at rest and on movement, and maternal satisfaction at 0hrs, 6hrs, 12hrs and 24hrs.
Results: Total of 72 patients were analyzed using NRS with pain score at 0hr, 6hr and 12hr was significantly low by about 50% in Intervened group as compared to control group with (p-value (2 tail) of <0.001 however at 24 hrs. was 0.272. Participant in group A had extra movements at 0hr, 6hrs and 12hrs with p-value <0.001 as compare to control cut had no significant difference when coughing. Maternal
satisfaction with pain management was 95.1% with no reported adverse event.

Conclusions: Trans Abdominis Plane block when used as part of multimodal pain management is more effective in managing post-cesarean pain resulting in less physical limitation and high maternal satisfaction.

Assessment of Knowledge and Compliance to Evidence-Based Guidelines for VAP Prevention among ICU Nurses in Tanzania

Background: Implementation of evidence-based guidelines (EBGs) related to VAP is an effective measure for the prevention of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). While low knowledge regarding the EBGs related to VAP prevention among ICU nurses is still a major concern among nurses in ICUs globally, the situation in Tanzania is scarcely known. This study aimed to assess the ICU nurses’ knowledge, compliance, and barriers toward evidence-based guidelines for the prevention of VAP in Tanzania.

Methods: A cross-sectional study, involving ICU nurses of major hospitals in Tanzania, was conducted. A structured questionnaire was administered among 116 ICU. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and independent t-test.

Results: The mean knowledge score was 38.6% which is lower than the lowest ever reported knowledge score for EBGs for VAP prevention. Nurses with a degree or higher level of nursing education performed significantly better than the nurses with a diploma or lower level of nursing education(p=0.004). The mean self-reported adherence score for EBGs for the prevention of VAP was 60.8%. The main barriers to the implementation of EBGs for VAP prevention were lack of skills (96.6%), lack of adequate staff (95.5%), and lack of knowledge (79.3%).

Conclusion: Considering the severity and impact of VAP, and the higher risks of HAIs in resource-limited countries like Tanzania, the lower level of knowledge and compliance implies the need for on-going educational interventions and evaluation of the implementation of the EBGs for VAP prevention by considering the local context.