Challenges to providing open heart surgery for 186 million Nigerians

Background: Open heart surgery is nonexistent or undeveloped in many African countries due to the prerequisite for specialized multispecialty teams, expensive equipment, and consumables. This review aims to outline strategies for facilitating local skilled workforce training, improve patients’ access, and sustain heart surgery in Africa’s most populous nation. Methods: We reviewed the demographic, socioeconomic, and health metrics published by the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and other relevant sources for the top three African economies – South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt. Results: South Africa classified as upper-middle-income nation with gross national income [GNI] $12,475–$4126 spends 8.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), while Egypt and Nigeria both classified as lower-middle-income nations GNI $4125–$1046 spends 5.6% and 3.7% of GDP, respectively, on health care. Egypt performed 45%, South Africa 39%, and Nigeria 0.1% of their WHO projected annual heart surgery volume in 2015. These capacities are consistent with the human development index (HDI), thoracic surgeon-to-population ratio, and health insurance coverage ranking of these countries. Conclusion: Although gross income per capita is comparable, the HDI – a better discriminator of development is higher in Egypt with 0.69 against 0.51 in Nigeria, as evidenced by their respective heart surgery capacities. While the WHO projected 72,000 cases/annum for Nigeria is unattainable with the present workforce, the Pan African Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery (PASCATS) 40/1 million population projection of 7200 cases/annum appears a more realistic goal. However achieving even this modest target will require government political willpower and increased budgetary allocation for expanding insurance coverage. PASCATS advocates three mentorship models: resident senior local consultant, mission teams and senior expatriate consultant, with centralization through regional referral centers as viable pathways to develop cardiac surgery in sub Saharan Africa. Regionalization optimizes the scarce workforce and resources and therefore by combining assets can fast track skill acquisition by trainee surgeons.