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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ending Neglected Surgical Diseases (NSDs): Definitions, Strategies, and Goals for the Next Decade

While there has been overall progress in addressing the lack of access to surgical care worldwide, untreated surgical conditions in developing countries remain an underprioritized issue. Significant backlogs of advanced surgical disease called neglected surgical diseases (NSDs) result from massive disparities in access to quality surgical care. We aim to discuss a framework for a public health rights-based initiative designed to prevent and eliminate the backlog of NSDs in developing countries. We defined NSDs and set forth six criteria that focused on the applicability and practicality of implementing a program designed to eradicate the backlog of six target NSDs from the list of 44 Disease Control Priorities 3rd edition (DCP3) surgical interventions. The human rights-based approach (HRBA) was used to clarify NSDs role within global health. Literature reviews were conducted to ascertain the global disease burden, estimated global backlog, average cost per treatment, disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) averted from the treatment, return on investment, and potential gain and economic impact of the NSDs identified. Six index NSDs were identified, including neglected cleft lips and palate, clubfoot, cataracts, hernias and hydroceles, injuries, and obstetric fistula. Global definitions were proposed as a starting point towards the prevention and elimination of the backlog of NSDs. Defining a subset of neglected surgical conditions that illustrates society’s role and responsibility in addressing them provides a framework through the HRBA lens for its eventual eradication.

Decentralization and Regionalization of Surgical Care as a Critical Scale-up Strategy in Low- and Middle-Income Countries; Comment on “Decentralization and Regionalization of Surgical Care: A Review of Evidence for the Optimal Distribution of Surgical Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

As global attention to improve the quality, safety and access to surgical care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) increases, the need for evidence-based strategies to reliably scale-up the quality and quantity of surgical services becomes ever more pertinent. Iversen et al discuss the optimal distribution of surgical services, whether through decentralization or regionalization, and propose a strategy that utilizes the dimensions of acuity, complexity and prevalence of surgical conditions to inform national priorities. Proposed expansion of this strategy to encompass levels of scale-up prioritization is discussed in this commentary. The decentralization of emergency obstetric services in LMICs shows promising results and should be further explored. The dearth of evidence of regionalization in LMICs, on the other hand, limits extrapolation of lessons learned. Nevertheless, principles from the successful regionalization of certain services such as trauma care in high-income countries (HICs) can be adapted to LMIC settings and can provide the backbone for innovation in service delivery and safety.

Globalization of national surgical, obstetric and anesthesia plans: the critical link between health policy and action in global surgery

Efforts from the developed world to improve surgical, anesthesia and obstetric care in low- and middle-income countries have evolved from a primarily volunteer mission trip model to a sustainable health system strengthening approach as private and public stakeholders recognize the enormous health toll and financial burden of surgical disease. The National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Plan (NSOAP) has been developed as a policy strategy for countries to address, in part, the health burden of diseases amenable to surgical care, but these plans have not developed in isolation. The NSOAP has become a phenomenon of globalization as a broad range of partners – individuals and institutions – help in both NSOAP formulation, implementation and financing. As the nexus between policy and action in the field of global surgery, the NSOAP reflects a special commitment by state actors to make progress on global goals such as Universal Health Coverage and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This requires a continued global commitment involving genuine partnerships that embrace the collective strengths of both national and global actors to deliver sustained, safe and affordable high-quality surgical care for all poor, rural and marginalized people.

Global Neurosurgery: The Unmet Need

Globally, the lack of access to basic surgical care causes 3 times as much deaths as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. The magnitude of this unmet need has been described recently, and the numbers are startling. Major shifts in global health agenda have highlighted access to essential and emergency surgery as a high priority. A broad examination of the current global neurosurgical efforts to improve access has revealed some strengths, particularly in the realm of training; however, the demand grossly outstrips the supply; most people in low-income countries do not have access to basic surgical care, either due to lack of availability or affordability. Projects that help create a robust and resilient health system within low- and middle-income countries require urgent implementation. In this context, concurrent scale-up of human resources, investments in capacity building, local data collection, and analysis for accurate assessment are essential. In addition, through process of collaboration and consensus building within the neurosurgical community, a unified voice of neurosurgery is necessary to effectively advocate for all those who need neurosurgical care wherever, whenever.

Quality of essential surgical care in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review of the literature.

Quality of care is an emerging area of focus in the surgical disciplines. However, much of the emphasis on quality is limited to high-income countries. To address this gap, we conducted a systematic review of the literature on the quality of essential surgical care in low- and middle- income countries (LMIC).We searched PubMed, Cinahl, Embase and CAB Abstracts using three domains: quality of care, surgery and LMIC.We limited our review to studies of essential surgeries that pertained to all three search domains.We extracted data on study characteristics, type of surgery and the way in which quality was studied.354 studies were included. 281 (79.4%) were single-center studies and nearly half (n = 169, 46.9%) did not specify the level of facility. 207 studies reported on mortality (58.47%) and 325 reported on a morbidity (91.81%), most commonly surgical site infection (n = 190, 53.67%). Of the Institute of Medicine domains of quality, studies were most commonly of safety (n = 310, 87.57%) and effectiveness (n = 180, 50.85%) and least commonly of equity (n = 21, 5.93%).We find that while there are numerous studies that report on some aspects of quality of care, much of the data is single center and observational. Additionally, there is variability on which outcomes are reported both within and across specialties. Finally, we find under-reporting of parameters of equity and timeliness, which may be critical areas for research moving forward.