Economic evaluation of expanding inguinal hernia repair among adult males in Ghana

An unmet need for inguinal hernia repair is significant in Ghana where the number of specialist general surgeons is extremely limited. While surgical task sharing with medical doctors without formal specialist training in surgery has been adopted for inguinal hernia repair in Ghana, no prior research has been conducted on the long-term costs and health outcomes associated with expanding operations to repair all inguinal hernias among adult males in Ghana. The study aimed to estimate cost-effectiveness of elective open mesh repair performed by medical doctors and surgeons for adult males with primary inguinal hernia compared to no treatment in Ghana and to project costs and health gains associated with expanding operation services through task sharing between medical doctors and surgeons. The study analysis adopted a healthcare system perspective. A Markov model was constructed to assess 10-year differences in costs and outcomes between operations conducted by medical doctors or surgeons and no treatment. A 10-year budget impact analysis on service expansion for groin hernia repair through increasing task sharing between the providers was conducted. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for medical doctors and surgeons were USD 120 and USD 129 respectively per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted compared to no treatment, which are below the estimated threshold value for cost-effectiveness in Ghana of USD 371–491. Repairing all inguinal hernias (1.4 million) through task sharing between the providers in the same timeframe is estimated to cost USD 194 million. Total health gains of 1.5 million DALYs averted are expected. Inguinal hernia repair is cost-effective regardless of the type of surgical provider. Scaling up of inguinal hernia repair is worthwhile, with the potential to substantially reduce the disease burden in the country.

Assessing the prevalence of refractive errors and accuracy of vision screening by schoolteachers in Liberia

Background
Evidence indicates that school-based vision screening by trained teachers is an effective way of identifying and addressing potential vision problems in schoolchildren. However, inconsistencies have been reported in both the testing methods and accuracy of the screeners. This study assessed the prevalence of refractive errors and accuracy of screening by teachers in Grand Kru County, Liberia.

Methods
We conducted a retrospective analysis of data from four schools where, in February 2019, children were screened for refractive errors by trained teachers and then re-examined by ophthalmic technicians. One row of five optotypes of the Snellen 6/9 (0.2 logMar) scale (tumbling E chart) was used at a distance of 3 m. The prevalence of visual impairment and associations with sex, age and school were explored. Sensitivity, specificity and predictive values were calculated.

Results
Data were available for 823 of 1095 eligible children with a mean age of 13.7 y (range 5–18) and male:female ratio of 1:0.8. Poor vision was identified in 24 (2.9%) children with no differences by either sex or age but small differences by school. Screening by teachers had a sensitivity of 0.25 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.077 to 0.423) and a specificity of 0.996 (95% CI 0.992 to 1.000). Positive and negative predictive values were 0.667 (95% CI 0.359 to 0.975) and 0.978 (95% CI 0.968 to 0.988), respectively. The results were influenced by a high number of misclassifications in one of the four schools.

Conclusions
Teachers can be trained to conduct vision screening tests on schoolchildren to an acceptable level of accuracy, but strong monitoring and quality assurance systems should be built into screening programmes from the onset. In settings like Liberia, where many children do not attend school regularly, screening programmes should extend to community platforms to reach children out of school.

Evaluating the impact of neurosurgical rotation experience in Africa on the interest and perception of medical students towards a career in neurosurgery: a protocol for a continental, cross-sectional study

Introduction
Africa has the second highest neurosurgical workforce deficit globally. Despite the many recent advancements in increasing neurosurgical access in Africa, published reports have shown that the vast majority of undergraduate students have little or no exposure to neurosurgery. The lack of exposure may pose a challenge in reducing the neurosurgical workforce deficit, which is one of the long-term strategies of tackling the unmet burden of disease. Students may also miss the opportunity to appreciate the specialty and its demands as well as nurture their interest in the field. This study aims to assess the impact of a neurosurgical rotation during medical school in shaping the perception and interest of students towards a career in neurosurgery.

Methods
The cross-sectional study will be conducted through the dissemination of a self-administered e-survey hosted on Google Forms from 21st February 2021 to 20th March 2021. The survey will contain five-point Likert scale, multiple-choice and free-text questions. The structured questionnaire will have four sections with 27 items: (i) socio-demographic background, (ii) neurosurgical experience, (iii) perception towards a neurosurgical career and (iv) interest in a neurosurgical career. All consenting medical students in African medical schools who are in their clinical years (defined as fourth to sixth years or higher years of study) will be eligible. Odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals, Wilcoxon rank-sum test, Welch t-test and adjusted logistic regression models will be used to test for associations between independent and dependent variables. Statistical significance will be accepted at P < 0.05.

Public awareness, knowledge of availability, and willingness to use neurosurgical care services in Sub-Saharan Africa: A cross-sectional study

Introduction
Low- and middle-income countries bear the majority of neurosurgical disease burden and patients face significant barriers to seeking, reaching, and receiving care. We aimed to understand barriers to seeking care among adult Africans by evaluating the public perception, knowledge of availability, and readiness to use neurosurgical care services.

Methods
An e-survey was distributed among African adults who are not in the health sector or pursuing a health-related degree. Chi-square test and ANOVA were used for bivariate analysis and the alpha value was set at 0.05. Odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals were calculated.

Results
Six hundred and sixty-two adults from 16 African countries aged 25.4 (95% CI: 25.0, 25.9) responded. The majority lived in urban settings (90.6%) and were English-speaking (76.4%) men (54.8%). Most respondents (76.3%) could define neurosurgery adequately. The most popular neurosurgical diseases were traumatic brain injury (76.3%), congenital brain and spine diseases (67.7%), and stroke (60.4%). Unwillingness to use or recommend in-country neurosurgical services was associated with rural dwelling (β = -0.69, SE = 0.31, P = 0.03), lack of awareness about the availability of neurosurgeons in-country (β = 1.02, SE = 0.20, P<0.001), and believing neurosurgery is expensive (β = -1.49, SE = 0.36, P<0.001).

Conclusion
Knowledge levels about neurosurgery are satisfactory; however, healthcare-seeking is negatively impacted by multiple factors.

Evaluating Shifts in Perception After a Pilot Trauma Quality Improvement Training Course in Cameroon

Introduction
Trauma is a major contributor to the global burden of disease, with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) being disproportionately affected. Trauma Quality Improvement (QI) initiatives could potentially save an estimated two million lives each year. Successful trauma QI initiatives rely on adequate training and a culture of quality among hospital staff. This study evaluated the effect of a pilot trauma QI training course on participants’ perceptions on leadership, medical errors, and the QI process in Cameroon.

Methods
Study participants took part in a three-day, eight-module course training on trauma QI methods and applications. Perceptions on leadership, medical errors, and QI were assessed pre and post-course using a 15-item survey measured on a five-point Likert scale. Median pre- and post-course scores were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Knowledge retention and course satisfaction were also evaluated in a post-course survey and evaluation.

Results
A majority of the 25 course participants completed pre-course (92%) and post-course (80%) surveys. Participants’ perceptions of safety and comfort discussing medical errors at work significantly increased post-course (pre-median = 5, IQR [4-5]; post-median = 5, IQR [5-5]; P = 0.046). The belief that individuals responsible for medical error should be held accountable significantly decreased after the course (pre-median = 3, IQR [2-4]; post-median = 1, IQR [1-2]; P < 0.001). Overall satisfaction with the course was high with median scores ≥4. Conclusions These initial results suggest that targeted trauma QI training effectively influences attitudes about QI. Further investigation of the effect of the trauma QI training on hospital staff in larger courses is warranted to assess reproducibility of these findings.

Development and Implementation of an Antimicrobial Stewardship Checklist in Sub-saharan Africa: a Co-creation Consensus Approach

Background:

Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) initiatives promote the responsible use of antimicrobials in healthcare settings as a key measure to curb the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Defining the core elements of AMS is essential for developing and evaluating comprehensive AMS programmes. This project used co-creation and Delphi-consensus procedures to adapt and extend the existing published international AMS checklist. The overall objective was to arrive at a contextualised checklist of core AMS elements and key behaviours for use within healthcare settings in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as to implement the checklist in health institutions in four African countries.

Method:

The AMS checklist tool was developed using a modified Delphi approach to achieve local, expert consensus on items to be included on the checklist. Fourteen healthcare/public health professionals from Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, and Ghana were invited to review, score and comment on items from a published, global AMS checklist. Following their feedback, eight items were re-phrased and 25 new items added to the checklist. The final AMS checklist tool was deployed across 19 healthcare sites and used to assess AMS programmes before and after an AMS intervention in 14 of the 19 sites.

Findings:

The final tool comprised 54 items. Across the 14 sites, the checklist consistently showed improvements for all AMS components following the intervention. The greatest improvements observed were the presence of formal multidisciplinary AMS structures (79%) and the execution of a point-prevalence survey (72%). Elements with the least improvement were access to laboratory/imaging services (7%) and the presence of adequate financial support for AMS (14%). In addition to capturing quantitative and qualitative changes associated with the AMS intervention, project evaluation suggested that administering the AMS checklist made unique contributions to ongoing AMS activities. Furthermore, 29 additional AMS activities were reported as a direct result of the prompting checklist questions.

Conclusion:

Contextualised, co-created AMS tools are necessary for managing antimicrobial use across healthcare settings and increasing local AMS ownership and commitment. This study led to the development of a new AMS checklist which proved successful in capturing AMS improvements in Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, and Ghana. The tool also made unique contributions to furthering local AMS efforts. The study extends existing AMS materials for low and middle-income countries and provides empirical evidence for successful use in practice.

COVID-19 and resilience of healthcare systems in ten countries

Declines in health service use during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could have important effects on population health. In this study, we used an interrupted time series design to assess the immediate effect of the pandemic on 31 health services in two low-income (Ethiopia and Haiti), six middle-income (Ghana, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa and Thailand) and high-income (Chile and South Korea) countries. Despite efforts to maintain health services, disruptions of varying magnitude and duration were found in every country, with no clear patterns by country income group or pandemic intensity. Disruptions in health services often preceded COVID-19 waves. Cancer screenings, TB screening and detection and HIV testing were most affected (26–96% declines). Total outpatient visits declined by 9–40% at national levels and remained lower than predicted by the end of 2020. Maternal health services were disrupted in approximately half of the countries, with declines ranging from 5% to 33%. Child vaccinations were disrupted for shorter periods, but we estimate that catch-up campaigns might not have reached all children missed. By contrast, provision of antiretrovirals for HIV was not affected. By the end of 2020, substantial disruptions remained in half of the countries. Preliminary data for 2021 indicate that disruptions likely persisted. Although a portion of the declines observed might result from decreased needs during lockdowns (from fewer infectious illnesses or injuries), a larger share likely reflects a shortfall of health system resilience. Countries must plan to compensate for missed healthcare during the current pandemic and invest in strategies for better health system resilience for future emergencies.

Prospective, observational study of perioperative critical incidents, anaesthesia and mortality in elective paediatric surgical patients at a national referral hospital in Niger

Aims: To describe perioperative critical incidents, the conduct of anaesthesia and perioperative mortality in elective paediatric surgery patients in a national referral hospital in Niger.

Methods: This is a prospective, observational study conducted from January to March 2018. All paediatric patients 15 years an younger, who underwent elective surgery in the Niamey National Hospital were included. The following variables were studied: age, sex, type of surgery, American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status (ASA PS) classification, monitoring system, anaesthesia technique, critical incidents, blood transfusion, analgesia, qualification of the anaesthesia practitioner, postoperative destination and mortality. Data were analysed with Excel 2007 and Epi Info 6™ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA). The chi2 test was used for univariate associations with critical incidents. Statistical significance was considered if p < 0.05. Results: There were 231 (27.2%) paediatric patients of 849 surgical patients during the study period. Within the paediatric group, the mean age was 6 ± 4 years. The male:female sex ratio was 1.65. A full blood count was completed preoperatively in all patients. Three per cent of the patients received a preoperative blood transfusion. The most frequently performed surgery was abdominal (42.4%). Most patients were classified as ASA PS I (55%) and ASA PS II (45%). General anaesthesia was performed in 96.1% of cases and spinal anaesthesia in 3.9%. The median duration of general anaesthesia was 63 (interquartile range 45–90) minutes. There were 27 reported critical incidents (11.7%), ten of which occurred during induction (4.9%), five intraoperatively (2.2%) and 12 postoperatively (5.2%). Multimodal postoperative analgesia was used in 33.8% of these patients. One patient died in the postoperative period (0.43%). Conclusion: Perioperative critical incidents in paediatric surgical patients in Niger remain high. To improve this situation requires paediatric training of anaesthetic staff, and improved paediatric monitoring and the use of safer anaesthesia agents.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Pediatric Surgical Volume in Four Low- and Middle-Income Country Hospitals: Insights from an Interrupted Time Series Analysis

Background
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on surgical care delivery in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) has been challenging to assess due to a lack of data. This study examines the impact of COVID-19 on pediatric surgical volumes at four LMIC hospitals.

Methods
Retrospective and prospective pediatric surgical data collected at hospitals in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Zambia were reviewed from January 2019 to April 2021. Changes in surgical volume were assessed using interrupted time series analysis.

Results
6078 total operations were assessed. Before the pandemic, overall surgical volume increased by 21 cases/month (95% CI 14 to 28, p < 0.001). From March to April 2020, the total surgical volume dropped by 32%, or 110 cases (95% CI − 196 to − 24, p = 0.014). Patients during the pandemic were younger (2.7 vs. 3.3 years, p < 0.001) and healthier (ASA I 69% vs. 66%, p = 0.003). Additionally, they experienced lower rates of post-operative sepsis (0.3% vs 1.5%, p < 0.001), surgical site infections (1.3% vs 5.8%, p < 0.001), and mortality (1.6% vs 3.1%, p < 0.001).

Conclusions
During the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s surgery in LMIC saw a sharp decline in total surgical volume by a third in the month following March 2020, followed by a slow recovery afterward. Patients were healthier with better post-operative outcomes during the pandemic, implying a widening disparity gap in surgical access and exacerbating challenges in addressing the large unmet burden of pediatric surgical disease in LMICs with a need for immediate mitigation strategies.

Factors Influencing Uptake and Utilization of Mutual Health Insurance in Cameroon: The case of Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province Health Assistance

Background: Mutual health insurance schemes are a tool to curb excessive out-of-pocket payments for healthcare services to the poor and vulnerable communities. However, the uptake and utilization of these insurance schemes are low. This study explores factors that influence the uptake and utilization of mutual health insurance schemes.

Methods: This was a descriptive qualitative case study conducted among 20 Adherents and seven staff of BEPHA Kumbo. Multiple data sources were used, including semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and a review of documents. We used the content analysis method to analyze the data.

Results: While mutual health insurance schemes can increase access to healthcare and potentially protect households against impoverishment caused by out-of-pocket payments, they face multiple factors that hinder uptake and utilization. The findings revealed that trust and access to the insurer were classified as enablers. At the same time, annual contribution, adverse selection, and no national policy were threats influencing uptake and utilization of the schemes.

Conclusions: MHI schemes can expand access to healthcare and improve the quality of care for its members. However, the lack of national policy threatens uptake and utilization and, hence, sustainability of these schemes.