Infection Prevention and Control at Lira University Hospital, Uganda: More Needs to Be Done

Globally, 5%–15% of hospitalized patients acquire infections (often caused by antimicrobial-resistant microbes) due to inadequate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures. We used the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘Infection Prevention and Control Assessment Framework’ (IPCAF) tool to assess the IPC compliance at Lira University hospital (LUH), a teaching hospital in Uganda. We also characterized challenges in completing the tool. This was a hospital-based, cross-sectional study conducted in November 2020. The IPC focal person at LUH completed the WHO IPCAF tool. Responses were validated, scored, and interpreted per WHO guidelines. The overall IPC compliance score at LUH was 225/800 (28.5%), implying a basic IPC compliance level. There was no IPC committee, no IPC team, and no budgets. Training was rarely or never conducted. There was no surveillance system and no monitoring/audit of IPC activities. Bed capacity, water, electricity, and disposal of hospital waste were adequate. Disposables and personal protective equipment were not available in appropriate quantities. Major challenges in completing the IPCAF tool were related to the detailed questions requiring repeated consultation with other hospital stakeholders and the long time it took to complete the tool. IPC compliance at LUH was not optimal. The gaps identified need to be addressed urgently.

The Importance of Collaboration in Global Neurosurgery

Collaboration, the kind built upon mutual respect, trust, and a shared vision, is the only reasonable approach to the immense challenges faced by the field of global neurosurgery. We must develop collaborations that foster the free flow of knowledge and resources to ensure that all patients, regardless of geographic location, have access to timely, safe, affordable, and effective neurosurgical care. Developing global, multi-institutional collaborations requires that all parties confront the realities of racism, colonialism, paternalism, and many other isms along with the true magnitude of the problem. Over the past two decades, our Duke Global Neurosurgery and Neurology (DGNN) team has strived to live up to these ideals. We are constantly adapting and evolving our collaborative approach.

DGNN’s initial collaborative work brought together Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Mulago National Referral Hospital, and Duke Health to provide direct neurosurgical care to patients in Uganda. Our shared principles of twinning guided our care delivery (pairing team members for bilateral knowledge exchange), training (developing new neurosurgeons in Uganda), and technology (providing the necessary equipment to perform neurosurgery) (1). This approach has led to 25 neurosurgery camps, over 500 total camp operations, over 5 tons of donated medical equipment and consumables, the establishment of neurosurgery residency programs, three neurosurgery units, and has more than tripled the number of neurosurgeons in Uganda, to date (2,3). Building, maintaining, and strengthening trust is the most important factor that underpins our collaboration’s success. Trust has been built through open and honest conversations, shared decision-making responsibilities, consistency over the years, and the shared vision of improving access to neurosurgery for all Ugandans.

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.

Measuring barriers to fistula care: investigating composite measures for targeted fistula programming in Nigeria and Uganda

Accessing surgical repair poses challenges to women living with female genital fistula who experience intersectional vulnerabilities including poverty, gender, stigma and geography. Barriers to fistula care have been described qualitatively in several low- and middle-income countries, but limited effort has been made to quantify these factors. This study aimed to develop and validate composite measures to assess barriers to accessing fistula repair in Nigeria and Uganda.

This quantitative study built on qualitative findings to content validate composite measures and investigates post-repair client surveys conducted at tertiary hospitals in Northern and Southern Nigeria and Central Uganda asking women about the degree to which a range of barriers affected their access. An iterative scale development approach included exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of two samples (n = 315 and n = 142, respectively) using STATA 13 software. Reliability, goodness-of-fit, and convergent and predictive validity were assessed.

A preliminary 43-item list demonstrated face and content validity, triangulated with qualitative data collected prior to and concurrently with survey data. The iterative item reduction approach resulted in the validation of a set of composite measures, including two indices and three sub-scales. These include a Financial/Transport Inaccessibility Index (6 items) and a multidimensional Barriers to Fistula Care Index of 17 items comprised of three latent sub-scales: Limited awareness (4 items), Social abandonment (6 items), and Internalized stigma (7 items). Factor analyses resulted in favorable psychometric properties and good reliability across measures (ordinal thetas: 0.70–0.91). Higher levels of barriers to fistula care are associated with a woman living with fistula for longer periods of time, with age and geographic settings as potential confounders.

This set of composite measures that quantitatively captures barriers to fistula care can be used separately or together in research and programming in low- and middle-income countries.

Understanding health-seeking and adherence to treatment by patients with esophageal cancer at the Uganda cancer Institute: a qualitative study

In the low- and middle-income countries, most patients with esophageal cancer present with advanced stage disease and experience poor survival. There is inadequate understanding of the factors that influence decisions to and actual health-seeking, and adherence to treatment regimens among esophageal cancer patients in Uganda, yet this knowledge is critical in informing interventions to promote prompt health-seeking, diagnosis at early stage and access to appropriate cancer therapy to improve survival. We explored health-seeking experiences and adherence to treatment among esophageal cancer patients attending the Uganda Cancer Institute.

We conducted an interview based qualitative study at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). Participants included patients with established histology diagnosis of esophageal cancer and healthcare professionals involved in the care of these patients. We used purposive sampling approach to select study participants. In-depth and key informant interviews were used in data collection. Data collection was conducted till point of data saturation was reached. Thematic content analysis approach was used in data analyses and interpretations. Themes and subthemes were identified deductively.

Sixteen patients and 17 healthcare professionals were included in the study. Delayed health-seeking and poor adherence to treatment were related to (i) emotional and psychosocial factors including stress of cancer diagnosis, stigma related to esophageal cancer symptoms, and fear of loss of jobs and livelihood, (ii) limited knowledge and recognition of esophageal cancer symptoms by both patients and primary healthcare professionals, and (iii) limited access to specialized cancer care, mainly because of long distance to the facility and associated high transport cost. Patients were generally enthused with patient – provider relationships at the UCI. While inadequate communication and some degree of incivility were reported, majority of patients thought the healthcare professionals were empathetic and supportive.

Health system and individual patient factors influence health-seeking for symptoms of esophageal cancer and adherence to treatment schedule for the disease. Interventions to improve access to and acceptability of esophageal cancer services, as well as increase public awareness of esophageal cancer risk factors and symptoms could lead to earlier diagnosis and potentially better survival from the disease in Uganda.

Cervical cancer in Sub‐Saharan Africa: a multinational population‐based cohort study on patterns and guideline adherence of care

Cervical cancer (CC) is the most common female cancer in many countries of sub‐Saharan Africa (SSA). We assessed treatment guideline adherence and its association with overall survival (OS).

Our observational study covered nine population‐based cancer registries in eight countries: Benin, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Random samples of 44‐125 patients diagnosed 2010‐2016 were selected in each. Cancer‐directed therapy (CDT) was evaluated for degree of adherence to National Comprehensive Cancer Network (USA) Guidelines.

Of 632 patients, 15.8% received CDT with curative potential: 5.2% guideline‐adherent, 2.4% with minor and 8.2% major deviations. CDT was not documented or without curative potential in 22%; 15.7% were diagnosed FIGO IV disease. Adherence was not assessed in 46.9% (no stage or follow‐up documented 11.9%) or records not traced (35.1%). The largest share of guideline‐adherent CDT was observed in Nairobi (49%), the smallest in Maputo (4%). In FIGO I‐III patients (n=190), minor and major guideline deviations were associated with impaired OS: hazard rate ratio (HRR) 1.73, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.36‐8.37; and HRR 1.97, CI 0.59‐6.56 respectively. CDT without curative potential (HRR 3.88, CI 1.19‐12.71) and no CDT (HRR 9.43, CI 3.03‐29.33) showed substantially worse survival.

We found only one in six cervical cancer patients in SSA received CDT with curative potential. At least one‐fifth and possibly up to two thirds of women never accessed CDT, despite curable disease, resulting in impaired OS. Investments into more radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgical training could change the fatal outcomes of man

Postpartum infection, pain and experiences with care among women treated for postpartum hemorrhage in three African countries: A cohort study of women managed with and without condom-catheter uterine balloon tamponade

We aimed to determine the risk of postpartum infection and increased pain associated with use of condom-catheter uterine balloon tamponade (UBT) among women diagnosed with postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) in three low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We also sought women’s opinions on their overall experience of PPH care.

This prospective cohort study compared women diagnosed with PPH who received and did not receive UBT (UBT group and no-UBT group, respectively) at 18 secondary level hospitals in Uganda, Egypt, and Senegal that participated in a stepped wedge, cluster-randomized trial assessing UBT introduction. Key outcomes were reported pain (on a scale 0–10) in the immediate postpartum period and receipt of antibiotics within four weeks postpartum (a proxy for postpartum infection). Outcomes related to satisfaction with care and aspects women liked most and least about PPH care were also reported.

Among women diagnosed with PPH, 58 were in the UBT group and 2188 in the no-UBT group. Self-reported, post-discharge antibiotic use within four weeks postpartum was similar in the UBT (3/58, 5.6%) and no-UBT groups (100/2188, 4.6%, risk ratio = 1.22, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.45–3.35). A high postpartum pain score of 8–10 was more common among women in the UBT group (17/46, 37.0%) than in the no-UBT group (360/1805, 19.9%, relative risk ratio = 3.64, 95% CI:1.30–10.16). Most women were satisfied with their care (1935/2325, 83.2%). When asked what they liked least about care, the most common responses were that medications (580/1511, 38.4%) and medical supplies (503/1511, 33.3%) were unavailable.

UBT did not increase the risk of postpartum infection among this population. Women who receive UBT may experience higher degrees of pain compared to women who do not receive UBT. Women’s satisfaction with their care and stockouts of medications and other supplies deserve greater attention when introducing new technologies like UBT.

Starting and Operating a Public Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory in a Low Resource Setting: The Eight-Year Story of the Uganda Heart Institute Catheter Laboratory

Background: Low- and-middle-income-countries (LMICs) currently bear 80% of the world’s cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality burden. The same countries are underequipped to handle the disease burden due to critical shortage of resources. Functional cardiac catheterization laboratories (cath labs) are central in the diagnosis and management of CVDs. Yet, most LMICs, including Uganda, fall remarkably below the minimum recommended standards of cath lab:population ratio due to a host of factors including the start-up and recurring costs.

Objectives: To review the performance, challenges and solutions employed, lessons learned, and projections for the future for a single cath lab that has been serving the Ugandan population of 40 million people in the past eight years.

Methods: A retrospective review of the Uganda Heart Institute cath lab clinical database from 15 February 2012 to 31 December 2019 was performed.

Results: In the initial two years, this cath lab was dependent on skills transfer camps by visiting expert teams, but currently, Ugandan resident specialists independently operate this lab. 3,542 adult and pediatric procedures were conducted in 8 years, including coronary angiograms and percutaneous coronary interventions, device implantations, valvuloplasties, and cardiac defect closures, among others. There was a consistent expansion of the spectrum of procedures conducted in this cath lab each year. The initial lack of technical expertise and sourcing for equipment, as well as the continual need for sundries present(ed) major roadblocks. Government support and leveraging existing multi-level collaborations has provided a platform for several solutions. Sustainability of cath lab services remains a significant challenge especially in relation to the high cost of sundries and other consumables amidst a limited budget.

Conclusion: A practical example of how centers in LMIC can set up and sustain a public cardiac catheterization laboratory is presented. Government support, research, and training collaborations, if present, become invaluable leverage opportunities.

Implementing an intrapartum package of interventions to improve quality of care to reduce the burden of preterm birth in Kenya and Uganda

Quality of care during the intrapartum and immediate postnatal period for maternal and newborn health remains a major challenge due to the multiple health system bottlenecks in low-income countries. Reports of complex interventions that have been effective in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in these settings are usually limited in description, which inhibits learning and replication. We present a detailed account of the Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi) implementation process, experiences and lessons learnt to inform scale-up and replication.

Using the TiDieR framework, we detail how the PTBi implemented an integrated package of interventions through a pair-matched cluster randomized control trial in 20 health facilities in Migori County, Kenya, and the Busoga region in east central Uganda from 2016 to 2019. The package aimed to improve quality of care during the intrapartum and immediate postnatal period with a focus on preterm birth. The package included data strengthening (DS) and introduction of a modified WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist (mSCC), simulation-based training and mentoring (PRONTO), and a Quality Improvement (QI) Collaborative.

In 2016, DS and mSCC were introduced to improve existing data processes and increase the quality of data for measures needed to evaluate study impact. PRONTO and QI interventions were then rolled out sequentially. While package components were implemented with fidelity, some implementation processes required contextual adaptation to allow alignment with national priorities and guidelines, and flexibility to optimize uptake.

Lessons learned included the importance of synergy between interventions, the need for local leadership engagement, and the value of strengthening local systems and resources. Adaptations of individual elements of the package to suit the local context were important for effective implementation, and the TIDieR framework provides the guidance needed in detailed description to replicate such a complex intervention in other settings. Detailed documentation of the implementation process of a complex intervention with mutually synergistic components can help contextualize trial results and potential for scale-up. The trial is registered at ClinicalTrials.govNCT03112018, registered December 2016, posted April 2017.