Strategies for Improving Quality and Safety in Global Health: Lessons From Nontechnical Skills for Surgery Implementation in Rwanda

In 2015 the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery published its report “Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development,”1 helping to galvanize a global movement to increase access to safe, timely, and affordable surgical and anesthesia care with an emphasis on equity. A goal of the movement is to enable the benefits of these efforts to be reaped most by impoverished and marginalized populations. The authors laid out 5 key messages, including the great number of operations required annually (approximately 143 million), especially among the poorest third of the world’s population, which receives only 6% of the operations. The commission called on nations to track and report on 6 metrics related to surgical care. Two of these metrics—surgeon, anesthetist, and obstetric (SAO) density (the number of specialist surgical, anesthetic, and obstetric providers per 100,000 population) and surgical volume (number of operations performed in operating rooms annually per 100,000 population)—are measurements …

Evaluating the effect of interventions for strengthening non-physician anesthetists’ education in Ethiopia: a pre- and post-evaluation study

Access to safe surgery has been recognized as an indispensable component of universal health coverage. A competent anesthesia workforce is a prerequisite for safe surgical care. In Ethiopia, non-physician anesthetists are the main anesthesia service providers. The Government of Ethiopia implemented a program intervention to improve the quality of non-physician anesthetists’ education, which included faculty development, curricula strengthening, student support, educational resources, improved infrastructure and upgraded regulations. This study aimed to assess changes following the implementation of this program.

A pre-and post-evaluation design was employed to evaluate improvement in the quality of non-physician anesthetists’ education. A 10-station objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) was administered to graduating class anesthetists of 2016 (n = 104) to assess changes in competence from a baseline study performed in 2013 (n = 122). Moreover, a self-administered questionnaire was used to collect data on students’ perceptions of the learning environment.

The overall competence score of 2016 graduates was significantly higher than the 2013 class (65.7% vs. 61.5%, mean score difference = 4.2, 95% CI = 1.24–7.22, p < 0.05). Although we found increases in competence scores for 6 out of 10 stations, the improvement was statistically significant for three tasks only (pre-operative assessment, postoperative complication, and anesthesia machine check). Moreover, the competence score in neonatal resuscitation declined significantly from baseline (from 74.4 to 68.9%, mean score difference = − 5.5, 95% CI = -10.5 to − 0.5, p  0.05 in favor of females), and female students scored better in some stations. Student perceptions of the learning environment improved significantly for almost all items, with the largest percentage point increase in the availability of instructors from 38.5 to 70.2% (OR = 3.76, 95% CI = 2.15–6.55, p < 0.05).

The results suggest that the quality of non-physician anesthetists’ education has improved. Stagnation in competence scores of some stations and student perceptions of the simulated learning environment require specific attention.

Cardiac anesthesiologist and the global capacity building to tackle rheumatic valvular heart disease

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is considered the neglected disease of the tropics and is endemic in several low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). 1 It still is an important cause of preventable morbidity and mortality associated with cardiovascular disease among children and young adults. The disease has seen a sharp decrease in most high-income countries (HIC) and primarily, the LMICs of Asia and Africa face the brunt of RHD, which also imposes huge economic burden. 2 In addition, RHD is also a significant cause of maternal mortality. 3 For precise understanding of the burden of RHD, it needs to be appreciated that LMICs are more populous (more than 5 times that of HICs) and that RHD remains the single most common cardiovascular disease in young adult and adolescent patients in need of heart surgery. 4 Furthermore, LMICs provide very different levels of cardiac surgical services for their population. There has been an impressive significant growth in the cardiac surgical capacity in middle-income countries, even so, there is a wide gap between patients in need of intervention / surgery and those who actually receive it. In addition, the diversity of health care facilities in these countries has led to availability of state-of-the art facilities to a select few (affluent) with majority (poor and under-privileged) having to rely on the overwhelmed public hospitals. The situation in the low-income countries is even worse.

Assessment of Anesthesia Capacity in Public Surgical Hospitals in Guatemala

International standards for safe anesthetic care have been developed by the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Whether these standards are met is unknown in many nations, including Guatemala, a country with universal health coverage. We aimed to establish an overview of anesthesia care capacity in public surgical hospitals in Guatemala to help guide public sector health care development.

In partnership with the Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS), a national survey of all public hospitals providing surgical care was conducted using the WFSA anesthesia facility assessment tool (AFAT) in 2018. Each facility was assessed for infrastructure, service delivery, workforce, medications, equipment, and monitoring practices. Descriptive statistics were calculated and presented.

Of the 46 public hospitals in Guatemala in 2018, 36 (78%) were found to provide surgical care, including 20 district, 14 regional, and 2 national referral hospitals. We identified 573 full-time physician surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians (SAO) in the public sector, with an estimated SAO density of 3.3/100,000 population. There were 300 full-time anesthesia providers working at public hospitals. Physician anesthesiologists made up 47% of these providers, with an estimated physician anesthesiologist density of 0.8/100,000 population. Only 10% of district hospitals reported having an anesthesia provider continuously present intraoperatively during general or neuraxial anesthesia cases. No hospitals reported assessing pain in the immediate postoperative period. While the availability of some medications such as benzodiazepines and local anesthetics was robust (100% availability across all hospitals), not all hospitals had essential medications such as ketamine, epinephrine, or atropine. There were deficiencies in the availability of essential equipment and basic intraoperative monitors, such as end-tidal carbon dioxide detectors (17% availability across all hospitals). Postoperative care and access to resuscitative equipment, such as defibrillators, were also lacking.

This first countrywide, MSPAS-led assessment of anesthesia capacity at public facilities in Guatemala revealed a lack of essential materials and personnel to provide safe anesthesia and surgery. Hospitals surveyed often did not have resources regardless of hospital size or level, which may suggest multiple factors preventing availability and use. Local and national policy initiatives are needed to address these deficiencies.

Using critical care physicians to deliver anesthesia and boost surgical caseload in austere environments: the Critical Care General Anesthesia Syllabus (CC GAS)

Despite an often severe lack of surgeons and surgical equipment, the rate-limiting step in surgical care for the nearly five billion people living in resource-limited areas is frequently the absence of safe anesthesia. During disaster relief and surgical missions, critical care physicians (CCPs), who are already competent in complex airway and ventilator management, can help address the need for skilled anesthetists in these settings.

We provided a descriptive analysis that CCPs were trained to provide safe general anesthesia, monitored anesthesia care (MAC), and spinal anesthesia using a specifically designed and simple syllabus.

Six CCPs provided anesthesia under the supervision of a board-certified anesthesiologist for 58 (32%) cases of a total of 183 surgical cases performed by a surgical mission team at St. Luc Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2013, 2017, and 2018. There were no reported complications.

Given CCPs’ competencies in complex airway and ventilator management, a CCP, with minimal training from a simple syllabus, may be able to act as an anesthesiologist-extender and safely administer anesthesia in the austere environment, increasing the number of surgical cases that can be performed. Further studies are necessary to confirm our observation.