Improving District Hospital Surgical Capacity in Resource Limited Settings: Challenges and Lessons From South Africa

Strengthening surgical capacity of district hospitals (DHs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has been recognised globally as key to improving equitable access to surgical care. This commentary considers the benefits and challenges of surgical mentoring in South Africa and applies the lessons learned to other low-resource settings.
Surgical team mentoring programs require consideration of all stakeholders involved, with strong relationships between mentors and mentees, and the possible establishment of roaming district surgical teams. Other components of a surgical ecosystem must also be strengthened including defining a DH surgical package of care, ensuring strong referral systems through a hub and spoke model, and routine monitoring and evaluation. These recommendations have the potential to strengthen surgical capacity in DHs in low-resource settings which is critical to achieving health for a

Which Surgical Operations Should be Performed in District Hospitals in East, Central and Southern Africa? Results of a Survey of Regional Clinicians

Background
In East, Central and Southern Africa (ECSA), district hospitals (DH) are the main source of surgical care for 80% of the population. DHs in Africa must provide basic life-saving procedures, but the extent to which they can offer other general and emergency surgery is debated. Our paper contributes to this debate through analysis and discussion of regional surgical care providers’ perspectives.

Methods
We conducted a survey at the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa Conference in Kigali in December 2018. The survey presented the participants with 59 surgical and anaesthesia procedures and asked them if they thought the procedure should be done in a district level hospital in their region. We then measured the level of positive agreement (LPA) for each procedure and conducted sub-analysis by cadre and level of experience.

Results
We had 100 respondents of which 94 were from ECSA. Eighteen procedures had an LPA of 80% or above, among which appendicectomy (98%), caesarean section (97%) and spinal anaesthesia (97%). Twenty-one procedures had an LPA between 31 and 79%. The surgical procedures that fell in this category were a mix of obstetrics, general surgery and orthopaedics. Twenty procedures had an LPA below 30% among which paediatric anaesthesia and surgery.

Conclusion
Our study offers the perspectives of almost 100 surgical care providers from ECSA on which surgical and anaesthesia procedures should be provided in district hospitals. This might help in planning surgical care training and delivery in these hospitals.

A geospatial analysis of two-hour surgical access to district hospitals in South Africa

Background
In a robust health care system, at least 80% of a country’s population should be able to access a district hospital that provides surgical care within 2 hours. The objective was to identify the proportion of the population living within 2 hours of a district hospital with surgical capacity in South Africa.

Methods
All government hospitals in the country were identified. Surgical district hospitals were defined as district hospitals with a surgical provider, a functional operating theatre, and the provision of at least one caesarean section annually. The proportion of the population within two-hour access was estimated using service area methods.

Results
Ninety-eight percent of the population had two-hour access to any government hospital in South Africa. One hundred and thirty-eight of 240 (58%) district hospitals had surgical capacity and 86% of the population had two-hour access to these facilities.

Conclusion
Improving equitable surgical access is urgently needed in sub-Saharan Africa. This study demonstrated that in South Africa, just over half of district hospitals had surgical capacity but more than 80% of the population had two-hour access to these facilities. Strengthening district hospital surgical capacity is an international mandate and needed to improve access.

Musculoskeletal trauma services in Mozambique and Sri Lanka.

There is currently an escalating epidemic of trauma-related injuries due to road traffic accidents and armed conflicts. This trauma occurs predominantly in rural areas where most of the population lives. Major ways to combat this epidemic include prevention programs, improved healthcare facilities, and training of competent providers. Mozambique and Sri Lanka have many common features including size, economic system, and healthcare structure but have significant differences in their medical education systems. With six medical schools, Sri Lanka graduates 1000 new physicians per year while Mozambique graduates less than 50 from their singular school. To supplement the low number of physicians, a training course for surgical technicians has been implemented. Examination of district hospital staffing and the medical education in these two countries might provide for improving trauma care competence in other developing countries. Musculoskeletal education is underrepresented in most medical school curricula around the world. District hospitals in developing countries are commonly staffed by recently graduated general medical officers, whose last formal education was in medical school. There is an opportunity to improve the quality of trauma care at the district hospital level by addressing the musculoskeletal curriculum content in medical schools.