Understanding patient health-seeking behaviour to optimise the uptake of cataract surgery in rural Kenya, Zambia and Uganda: findings from a multisite qualitative study

Cataract is a major cause of visual impairment globally, affecting 15.2 million people who are blind, and another 78.8 million who have moderate or severe visual impairment. This study was designed to explore factors that influence the uptake of surgery offered to patients with operable cataract in a free-of-charge, community-based eye health programme.

Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were conducted with patients and healthcare providers in rural Zambia, Kenya and Uganda during 2018–2019. We identified participants using purposive sampling. Thematic analysis was conducted using a combination of an inductive and deductive team-based approach.

Participants consisted of 131 healthcare providers and 294 patients. Two-thirds of patients had been operated on for cataract. Two major themes emerged: (1) surgery enablers, including a desire to regain control of their lives, the positive testimonies of others, family support, as well as free surgery, medication and food; and (2) barriers to surgery, including cultural and social factors, as well as the inadequacies of the healthcare delivery system.

Cultural, social and health system realities impact decisions made by patients about cataract surgery uptake. This study highlights the importance of demand segmentation and improving the quality of services, based on patients’ expectations and needs, as strategies for increasing cataract surgery uptake.

Reimagining Universal Health Coverage: Safe and Affordable Surgery

UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) and universal health coverage (UHC) are significant health goals the world needs to achieve. Despite concerted efforts to attain UHC, the world is still lagging. Compared to the sizable number of resources put into the treatment of well-known communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, and malaria, surgery is relatively underutilized despite its potential. Scaling up surgical interventions, however, is crucial since it can save many people’s lives and help avert the economic losses incurred due to diseases. Moreover, increased surgical capacity in low-to-middle-income countries (LMICs) could prove useful in overcoming pandemics, such as COVID-19. To upgrade the surgical capacity of the LMICs, it is essential to incorporate National Surgical, Obstetric, and Anaesthesia Plans (NSOAPs) into their national health policies. In this paper, the illustrative cases of two countries that adopted NSOAPs with a different model. Zambia and Pakistan, are examined. We conclude by giving recommendations to countries that are yet to adopt NSOAPs

Dataset evaluating the treatment timeliness of cervical cancer in Zambia

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among women globally. Effective screening routines and early detection are vital in reducing its disease burden and mortality. Several factors can influence the timely detection and treatment of cervical cancer, especially in low middle-income countries where the burden of this disease is highest. The data presented in this paper relates to the research article “Cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment delays in the developing world: Evidence from a hospital-based study in Zambia”. The raw and analysed data include the studied patients’ social demographic factors, clinical data concerning the stage and histological subtype of cancer, dates at which the various activities within the cancer treatment pathway occurred and delays to definitive treatment of cervical cancer at Zambia’s only cancer treatment facility. Detailing delays to the treatment of cervical cancer allows recognition of specific points in the cancer treatment pathway requiring intervention to effectively improve cancer care and reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with the disease.

Cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment delays in the developing world: Evidence from a hospital-based study in Zambia

Expedited diagnostic processes for all suspected cervical cancer cases remain essential in the effort to improve clinical outcomes of the disease. However, in some developing countries like Zambia, there is paucity of data that assesses factors influencing diagnostic and treatment turnaround time (TAT) and other metrics vital for quality cancer care. We conducted a retrospective hospital-based study at the Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) for cervical cancer cases presenting to the facility between January 2014 and December 2018. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize demographic characteristics while a generalized linear model of the negative binomial was used to assess determinants of overall TAT. Our study included 2121 patient case files. The median age was 49 years (IQR: ±17) and most patients (n=634, 31%) were aged between 41–50 years. The International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Cancer stage II (n =941, 48%) was the most prevalent while stage IV (n=103, 5.2%) was the least. The average diagnostic TAT in public laboratories was 1.48 (95%CI: 1.21–1.81) times longer than in private laboratories. Furthermore, referral delay was 55 days (IQR: 24–152) and the overall TAT (oTAT) was 110 days (IQR: 62–204). The age of the patient, HIV status, stage of cancer and histological subtype did not influence oTAT while marital status influenced oTAT. The observed longer oTAT may increase irreversible adverse health outcomes among cervical cancer patients. There is a need to improve cancer care in Zambia through improved health expenditure especially in public health facilities.

The role of Mitrofanoff appendicovesicostomy in the management of a pelvic fracture distraction defect in a 24- year-old man after multiple failed reconstruction attempts

Failed Pelvic Fracture Distraction Defect repairs present a considerable challenge for management. Re-do urethroplasties for failed repairs are associated with higher recurrence and morbidity rates. The case presented describes a male patient with a pelvic fracture urethral distraction defect (PFUDD) who had undergone multiple failed repairs. The Mitrofanoff appendicovesicostomy was successfully carried out and the patient remains continent to date. The Mitrofanoff appendicovesicostomy is not commonly employed in the management of adult urethral stricture disease. We present our experience with managing a pelvic fracture urethral disruption defect (PFUDD) after multiple failed urethroplasties using a continent catheterisable urinary diversion techniqu

User Experience With Low-Cost Virtual Reality Cancer Surgery Simulation in an African Setting

Limited access to adequate cancer surgery training is one of the driving forces behind global inequities in surgical cancer care. Affordable virtual reality (VR) surgical training could enhance surgical skills in low- and middle-income settings, but most VR and augmented reality systems are too expensive and do not teach open surgical techniques commonly practiced in these contexts. New low-cost VR can offer skill development simulations relevant to these settings, but little is known about how knowledge is gained and applied by surgeons training and working in specific resource-constrained settings. This study addresses this gap, exploring gynecologic oncology trainee learning and user experience using a low-cost VR simulator to learn to perform an open radical abdominal hysterectomy in Lusaka, Zambia.

Eleven surgical trainees rotating through the gynecologic oncology service were sequentially recruited from the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka to participate in a study evaluating a VR radical abdominal hysterectomy training designed to replicate the experience in a Zambian hospital. Six participated in semi-structured interviews following the training. Interviews were analyzed using open and axial coding, informed by grounded theory.

Simulator participation increased participants’ perception of their surgical knowledge, confidence, and skills. Participants believed their skills transferred to other related surgical procedures. Having clear goals and motivation to improve were described as factors that influenced success.

For cancer surgery trainees in lower-resourced settings learning medical and surgical skills, even for those with limited VR experience, low-cost VR simulators may enhance anatomical knowledge and confidence. The VR simulator reinforced anatomical and clinical knowledge acquired through other modalities. VR-enhanced learning may be particularly valuable when mentored learning opportunities are limited.

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.

Silver linings: a qualitative study of desirable changes to cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Introduction: Public health emergencies and crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic can accelerate innovation and place renewed focus on the value of health interventions. Capturing important lessons learnt, both positive and negative, is vital. We aimed to document the perceived positive changes (silver linings) in cancer care that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify challenges that may limit their long-term adoption.

Methods: This study employed a qualitative design. Semi-structured interviews (n = 20) were conducted with key opinion leaders from 14 countries. The participants were predominantly members of the International COVID-19 and Cancer Taskforce, who convened in March 2020 to address delivery of cancer care in the context of the pandemic. The Framework Method was employed to analyse the positive changes of the pandemic with corresponding challenges to their maintenance post-pandemic.

Results: Ten themes of positive changes were identified which included: value in cancer care, digital communication, convenience, inclusivity and cooperation, decentralisation of cancer care, acceleration of policy change, human interactions, hygiene practices, health awareness and promotion and systems improvement. Impediments to the scale-up of these positive changes included resource disparities and variation in legal frameworks across regions. Barriers were largely attributed to behaviours and attitudes of stakeholders.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to important value-based innovations and changes for better cancer care across different health systems. The challenges to maintaining/implementing these changes vary by setting. Efforts are needed to implement improved elements of care that evolved during the pandemic.

Factors Associated with Waiting Time for Patients Scheduled for Elective Surgical Procedures at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Zambia

Background: Measuring waiting times for elective surgical procedures is vital because it is considered as a proxy for evaluating the quality of surgical care. The aim was to examine waiting time for elective surgery at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Zambia, looking at both patient and facility factors. Methods: This was a crosssectional study utilizing data from medical records of patients who were scheduled for elective surgical procedures at the UTH, between 1st December 2018 and 31st January 2019. The Weibull regression model was used to examine waiting times from admission to surgery using patient profiles and to assess the factors associated with waiting time. Results: During the study period, 182 patients underwent elective surgical procedures. The overall median waiting time was 9 days (interquartile range 4 to – 18 days). Significant differences in waiting time were observed by the surgical unit (log-rank test, p=0.01). Lack of blood products from the blood bank and lack of operating theatre time were significant determinants of longer times (p=0.02, event time ratio [ETR] 2.23), and (p=0.01, ETR 1.96) respectively. Patients from the neuro-surgical unit experienced a waiting time that was 2.72 (p=0.04) times more than patients from other surgical units. Conclusion: We were able to determine waiting times for elective surgical procedures and this can be used to plan for surgery given patient profiles. Additionally, we found that the unavailability of blood products for transfusion and lack of operating theatre time increase waiting time for elective surgery. Ensuring the availability of blood products may reduce waiting time for surgery.

Simulation Based Training in Basic Life Support for Medical and Non-medical Personnel in Resource Limited Settings

Medical and non-medical personnel commonly encounter victims of life threatening injuries inflicted by various causes in diverse settings. More than 90% of global deaths and disability adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost because of injuries reportedly occur in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). The degree of readiness and competence to manage victims of accidents is likely to vary among individual care givers for knowledge, skill and confidence which would also depend on their training status. It would thus be justified that training in basic life support and other emergency clinical skills be administered to enhance competences in resuscitating the accident victims. Whatever the scale of a mass casualty incident, the first response will be carried out by members of the local community-not just health care staff and designated emergency workers,but also many ordinary citizens. Therefore, both medical and non-medical personnel should be targeted to receive training in basic life support (BLS). In medical training, the traditional (didactic) approach has been suggested to be an efficient and well-experienced training method while with the advances in technology the use of simulation-based medical training (SBMT) is increasing since SBMT provides a safe and supportive educational setting, so that students can improve their performance without causing adverse clinical outcomes. Similarly, the use of simulation based training in BLS would not only reduce the procedural associated risks but also benefit more participants from the public domain than would be the case if the training was conducted on human subjects. Compared with the developed world set-up simulation based training in resource constrained settings may not be that well established. This paper will therefore seek to examine the role of medical simulation as a necessary advancement and supplementary method of training in basic life support for medical and non-medical personnel in resource limited settings