Background: Data regarding the capacity to provide safe anaesthesia is lacking in many low-income countries. With the increasing popularity of WhatsApp for both personal and professional communication in Africa, we sought to test the feasibility of using this platform to administer a brief survey of anaesthesia equipment availability in Burundi. The aims of the study were to survey a subset of anaesthesia equipment availability in Burundi and to assess the suitability of using a WhatsApp chat group to administer such a survey.
Methods: The survey was distributed via WhatsApp by ATSARPS (Agora des Techniciens Supérieurs Anesthésistes Réanimateurs pour la Promotion de la Santé), an association of anaesthesia providers in Burundi. The questions focused on the presence of five pieces of anaesthesia equipment recommended by the World Health Organization – World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WHO–WFSA) International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anesthesia, namely a Lifebox pulse oximeter, anaesthesia machine, capnograph, ECG and defibrillator. Questions were sent as free text, and responses were received as a reply or as a personal message to the president of ATSARPS who sent the survey.
Results: Responses received represented data from 55 (85%) of the 65 hospitals that offer anaesthesia care across Burundi. Eightynine per cent of hospitals had a Lifebox pulse oximeter, 91% had an anaesthesia machine, 16% had capnography, 24% had an ECG and 14% had a defibrillator. Among hospitals which responded to our survey, only 60% reported perfoming general endotracheal anaesthesia on a monthly basis.
Conclusion: Data collection in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) can be challenging; therefore, simple, low-cost methods of data collection need to be developed. We have demonstrated the feasibility of using a WhatsApp chat group among a national society of anaesthesia providers in Burundi to perform an initial abbreviated audit of anaesthesia facilities. We have also identified significant deficits in anaesthesia equipment in Burundi.