Access to burn care in low-and middle-income countries: An assessment of timeliness, surgical capacity, and affordability in a regional referral hospital in Tanzania

This study investigates patients’ access to surgical care for burns in a low-and-middle-income setting by studying timeliness, surgical capacity, and affordability. A survey was conducted in a regional referral hospital in Manyara, Tanzania. In total, 67 patients were included. To obtain information on burn victims in need of surgical care, irrespective of time lapsed from the burn injury, both patients with burn wounds and patients with contractures were included. Information provided by patients and/or caregivers was supplemented with data from patient files and interviews with hospital administration and physicians. In the burn wound group, 50 percent reached a facility within 24 hours after the injury. Referrals from other health facilities to the regional referral hospital were made within three weeks for 74 percent in this group. Of contracture patients, seventy four percent, had sought healthcare after the acute burn injury. Of the same group, only 4 percent had been treated with skin grafts beforehand, and 70 percent never received surgical care or a referral. Combined, both groups indicated that lack of trust, surgical capacity, and referral timeliness were important factors negatively impacting patient access to surgical care. Accounting for hospital fees indicated patients routinely exceeded the catastrophic expenditure threshold. It was determined that healthcare for burn victims is without financial risk protection. We recommend strengthening burn care and reconstructive surgical programs in similar settings, using a more comprehensive health systems approach to identify and address both medical and socio-economic factors that determine patient mortality and disability.

Access to care solutions in healthcare for obstetric care in Africa: A systematic review

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems exist to reduce death and disability from life-threatening medical emergencies. Less than 9% of the African population is serviced by an emergency medical services transportation system, and nearly two-thirds of African countries do not have any known EMS system in place. One of the leading reasons for EMS utilization in Africa is for obstetric emergencies. The purpose of this systematic review is to provide a qualitative description and summation of previously described interventions to improve access to care for patients with maternal obstetric emergencies in Africa with the intent of identifying interventions that can innovatively be translated to a broader emergency context.

The protocol was registered in the PROSPERO database (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews) under the number CRD42018105371. We searched the following electronic databases for all abstracts up to 10/19/2020 in accordance to PRISMA guidelines: PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Scopus and African Index Medicus. Articles were included if they were focused on a specific mode of transportation or an access-to-care solution for hospital or outpatient clinic care in Africa for maternal or traumatic emergency conditions. Exclusion criteria included in-hospital solutions intended to address a lack of access. Reference and citation analyses were performed, and a data quality assessment was conducted. Data analysis was performed using a qualitative metasynthesis approach.

A total of 6,457 references were imported for screening and 1,757 duplicates were removed. Of the 4,700 studies that were screened against title and abstract, 4,485 studies were excluded. Finally, 215 studies were assessed for full-text eligibility and 152 studies were excluded. A final count of 63 studies were included in the systematic review. In the 63 studies that were included, there was representation from 20 countries in Africa. The three most common interventions included specific transportation solutions (n = 39), community engagement (n = 28) and education or training initiatives (n = 27). Over half of the studies included more than one category of intervention.

Emergency care systems across Africa are understudied and interventions to improve access to care for obstetric emergencies provides important insight into existing solutions for other types of emergency conditions. Physical access to means of transportation, efforts to increase layperson knowledge and recognition of emergent conditions, and community engagement hold the most promise for future efforts at improving emergency access to care.

Assessing barriers to quality trauma care in low and middle-income countries

Most deaths from injury occur in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) with one third potentially avoidable with better health system access. This study aimed to establish consensus on the most important barriers, within a Three Delays framework, to accessing injury care in LMICs that should be considered when evaluating a health system.
A three round electronic Delphi study was conducted with experts in LMIC health systems or injury care. In round one, participants proposed important barriers. These were synthesized into a three delays framework. In round 2 participants scored four components for each barrier. Components measured whether barriers were feasible to assess, likely to delay care for a significant proportion of injured persons, likely to cause avoidable death or disability, and potentially readily changed to improve care. In round 3 participants re-scored each barrier following review of feedback from round 2. Consensus was defined for each component as ≥70% agreement or disagreement.
There were 37 eligible responses in round 1, 30 in round 2, and 27 in round 3, with 21 countries represented in all rounds. Of the twenty conceptual barriers identified, consensus was reached on all four components for 11 barriers. This included 2 barriers to seeking care, 5 barriers to reaching care and 4 barriers to receiving care. The ability to modify a barrier most frequently failed to achieve consensus.
11 barriers were agreed to be feasible to assess, delay care for many, cause avoidable death or disability, and be readily modifiable. We recommend these barriers are considered in assessments of LMIC trauma systems.

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

Neurosurgical Randomized Trials in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

BACKGROUND:The setting of a randomized trial can determine whether its findings are generalizable and can therefore apply to different settings. The contribution of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to neurosurgical randomized trials has not been systematically described before. OBJECTIVE:To perform a systematic analysis of design characteristics and methodology, funding source, and interventions studied between trials led by and/or conducted in high-income countries (HICs) vs LMICs. METHODS:From January 2003 to July 2016, English-language trials with >5 patients assessing any one neurosurgical procedure against another procedure, nonsurgical treatment, or no treatment were retrieved from MEDLINE, Scopus, and Cochrane Library. Income classification for each country was assessed using the World Bank Atlas method. RESULTS:A total of 73.3% of the 397 studies that met inclusion criteria were led by HICs, whereas 26.7% were led by LMICs. Of the 106 LMIC-led studies, 71 were led by China. If China is excluded, only 8.8% were led by LMICs. HIC-led trials enrolled a median of 92 patients vs a median of 65 patients in LMIC-led trials. HIC-led trials enrolled from 7.6 sites vs 1.8 sites in LMIC-led studies. Over half of LMIC-led trials were institutionally funded (54.7%). The majority of both HIC- and LMIC-led trials evaluated spinal neurosurgery, 68% and 71.7%, respectively. CONCLUSION:We have established that there is a substantial disparity between HICs and LMICs in the number of published neurosurgical trials. A concerted effort to invest in research capacity building in LMICs is an essential step towards ensuring context- and resource-specific high-quality evidence is generated.

Pediatric neurosurgical workforce, access to care, equipment and training needs worldwide.

The presence and capability of existing pediatric neurosurgical care worldwide is unknown. The objective of this study was to solicit the expertise of specialists to quantify the geographic representation of pediatric neurosurgeons, access to specialist care, and equipment and training needs globally.

A mixed-question survey was sent to surgeon members of several international neurosurgical and general pediatric surgical societies via a web-based platform. Respondents answered questions on 5 categories: surgeon demographics and training, hospital and practice details, surgical workforce and access to neurosurgical care, training and equipment needs, and desire for international collaboration. Responses were anonymized and analyzed using Stata software.

A total of 459 surgeons from 76 countries responded. Pediatric neurosurgeons in high-income and upper-middle-income countries underwent formal pediatric training at a greater rate than surgeons in low- and lower-middle-income countries (89.5% vs 54.4%). There are an estimated 2297 pediatric neurosurgeons in practice globally, with 85.6% operating in high-income and upper-middle-income countries. In low- and lower-middle-income countries, roughly 330 pediatric neurosurgeons care for a total child population of 1.2 billion. In low-income countries in Africa, the density of pediatric neurosurgeons is roughly 1 per 30 million children. A higher proportion of patients in low- and lower-middle-income countries must travel > 2 hours to seek emergency neurosurgical care, relative to high-income countries (75.6% vs 33.6%, p < 0.001). Vast basic and essential training and equipment needs exist, particularly low- and lower-middle-income countries within Africa, South America, the Eastern Mediterranean, and South-East Asia. Eighty-nine percent of respondents demonstrated an interest in international collaboration for the purposes of pediatric neurosurgical capacity building.

Wide disparity in the access to pediatric neurosurgical care exists globally. In low- and lower-middle-income countries, wherein there exists the greatest burden of pediatric neurosurgical disease, there is a grossly insufficient presence of capable providers and equipped facilities. Neurosurgeons across income groups and geographic regions share a desire for collaboration and partnership.