Burden of Neonatal Surgical Conditions in Northern Ghana

Background: Congenital anomalies have risen to become the fifth leading cause of under-five mortality globally. The majority of deaths and disability occur in low- and middle-income countries including Ghana. This 3-year retrospective review aimed to define, for the first time, the characteristics and outcomes of neonatal surgical conditions in northern Ghana.

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted to include all admissions to the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with surgical conditions between January 2014 and January 2017. Data were collected on demographics, diagnosis and outcomes. Descriptive analysis was performed on all data, and logistic regression was used to predict determinants of neonatal mortality. p < 0.05 was deemed significant.

Results: Three hundred and forty-seven neonates were included. Two hundred and sixty-one (75.2%) were aged 7 days or less at presentation, with males (n = 177, 52%) slightly higher than females (n = 165, 48%). The majority were delivered by spontaneous vaginal delivery (n = 247, 88%); 191 (58%) were born in hospital. Congenital anomalies accounted for 302 (87%) of the neonatal surgical cases and 45 (96%) deaths. The most common anomalies were omphalocele (n = 48, 13.8%), imperforate anus (n = 34, 9.8%), intestinal obstruction (n = 29, 8.4%), spina bifida (n = 26, 7.5%) and hydrocephalus (n = 19, 5.5%). The overall mortality rate was 13.5%. Two-thirds of the deaths (n = 30) from congenital anomalies were conditions involving the digestive system with gastroschisis having the highest mortality of 88%. Omphalocele (n = 11, 23.4%), gastroschisis (n = 7, 14.9%) and imperforate anus (n = 6, 12.8%) contributed to the most deaths. On multivariate analysis, low birthweight was significantly associated with mortality (OR 3.59, CI 1.4-9.5, p = 0.009).

Conclusion: Congenital anomalies are a major global health problem associated with high neonatal mortality in Ghana. The highest burden in terms of both caseload and mortality is attributed to congenital anomalies involving the digestive system, which should be targeted to improve outcomes.

Not just numbers: beyond counting caesarean deliveries to understanding their determinants in Ghana using a population based cross-sectional study

Background
The increasing rate of caesarean deliveries (CD) has become a serious concern for public health experts globally. Despite this health concern, research on factors associated CD in many low- and -middle countries like Ghana is sparse. This study, therefore, assessed the prevalence and determinants of CD among child-bearing women aged 15–49  in Ghana.

Methods
The study used data from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey. The analysis was limited to mothers (n = 2742) aged 15–49 , who had given birth in health facilities 5 years preceding the survey. Association between CD and its determinants was assessed by calculating adjusted odds ratios (AOR) with their respective 95% confidence intervals using a binary logistic regression.

Results
The percentage of mothers who delivered their babies through caesarean section (CS) was 18.5%. Using multivariable logistic regression, the results showed that women aged 45–49 (AOR = 10.5; 95% CI: 3.0–37.4), and women from a household that are headed by a female (AOR = 1.3; 95% CI = 1.1–1.7) had higher odds to deliver through CS. Women from the Upper East (AOR =0.4; 95% CI = 0.2–0.7) and Upper West (AOR = 0.4; 95% CI = 0.2–0.8) regions had lower odds to deliver their children through CS. Women with parity 4 or more (AOR = 0.3; 95% CI = 0.2–0.5) had lower odds of CD compared to those with parity 1. Women with female babies had lower odds (AOR = 0.8; CI = 0.7–0.9) of delivering them through CS compared to those with male children.

Conclusion
The percentage of women delivering babies through the CS in Ghana is high. The high rates of CD noted do not essentially indicate good quality care or services. Hence, health facilities offering this medical protocol need to adopt comprehensive and strict measures to ensure detailed medical justifications by doctors for performing these caesarean surgeries.

Epidemiology and Perioperative Mortality of Exploratory Laparotomy in Rural Ghana

Background:
Perioperative mortality rate (POMR) has been identified as an important measure of access to safe surgical and anesthesia care in global surgery. There has been limited study on this measure in rural Ghana. In order to identify areas for future quality improvement efforts, we aimed to assess the epidemiology of exploratory laparotomy and to investigate POMR as a benchmark quality measure.

Methods:
Surgical records were reviewed at a regional referral hospital in Eastern Region, Ghana to identify cases of exploratory laparotomy from July 2017 through June 2018. Patient demographics, health information, and outcomes data were collected. Logistic regression was used to identify predictors of perioperative mortality.

Findings:
The study included operations for 286 adult and 60 pediatric patients. Only 60% of patients were covered by National Health Insurance (NHI). The overall POMR was 11.5% (12.6% adults; 6.7% pediatric). Sixty percent of mortalities were referrals from outside hospitals and the mortality rate for referrals was 13.5%. Odds of mortality was 13 times greater with perforated peptic ulcer disease (OR = 13.1, p = 0.025) and 12 times greater with trauma (OR = 11.7, p = 0.042) when compared to the most common operation. Female sex (OR = 0.3, p = 0.016) and NHI (OR = 0.4, p = 0.031) were protective variables. Individuals 60 years and older (OR = 3.3, p = 0.016) had higher mortality.

Conclusion:
POMR can be an important outcome and quality indicator for rural populations. Interventions aimed at decreasing emergent hernia repair, preventing perforation of peptic ulcer disease, improving rural infrastructure for response to major trauma, and increasing NHI coverage may improve POMR in rural Ghana.

Improving emergency obstetric referral systems in low and middle income countries: a qualitative study in a tertiary health facility in Ghana.

Timely access to emergency obstetric care is crucial in preventing mortalities associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The referral of patients from lower levels of care to higher levels has been identified as an integral component of the health care delivery system in Ghana. To this effect, in 2012, the National Referral Policy and Guidelines was developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to help improve standard procedures and reduce delays which affect access to emergency care. Nonetheless, ensuring timely access to care during referral of obstetric emergencies has been problematic. The study aimed to identify barriers associated with the referral of emergency obstetric cases to the leading national referral centre. It specifically examines the lived experiences of patients, healthcare providers and relatives of patients on the referral system. Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra was used as a case study in 2016.The qualitative method was used and in-depth interviews were conducted with 89 respondents: healthcare providers [n = 34];patients [n = 31] and relatives of patients [n = 24] using semi-structured interview guides. Purposive sampling techniques were used in selecting healthcare providers and patients and convenience sampling techniques were used in selecting relatives of patients. The study identified a range of barriers encountered in the referral process and broadly fall under the major themes: referral transportation system, referrer-receiver communication barriers, inadequate infrastructure and supplies and insufficient health personnel. Some highlights of the problem included inadequate use of ambulance services, poor management of patients during transit, lack of professional escort, unannounced emergency referrals, lack of adequate information and feedback and limited supply of beds, drugs and blood. These findings have implications on type II and III of the three delays model. Initiatives to improve the transportation system for the referral of obstetric emergencies are vital in ensuring patients’ safety during transfer. Communication between referring and receiving facilities should be enhanced. A strong collaboration is needed between teaching hospitals and other stakeholders in the referral chain to foster good referral practices and healthcare delivery. Concurrently, supply side barriers at referred facilities including ensuring sufficient provision for bed, blood, drugs, and personnel must be addressed.

Does insurance protect individuals from catastrophic payments for surgical care? An analysis of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme at Korle-Bu teaching Hospital

Background
According to the World Health Organization, essential surgery should be recognized as an essential component of universal health coverage. In Ghana, insurance is associated with a reduction in maternal mortality and improved access to essential medications, but whether it eliminates financial barriers to surgery is unknown. This study tested the hypothesis that insurance protects surgical patients against financial catastrophe.

Methods
We interviewed patients admitted to the general surgery wards of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) between February 1, 2017 – October 1, 2017 to obtain demographic data, income, occupation, household expenditures, and insurance status. Surgical diagnoses and procedures, procedural fees, and anesthesia fees incurred were collected through chart review. The data were collected on a Qualtrics platform and analyzed in STATA version 14.1. Fisher exact and Student T-tests were used to compare the insured and uninsured groups. Threshold for financial catastrophe was defined as health costs that exceeded 10% of household expenditures, 40% of non-food expenditures, or 20% of the individual’s income.

Results
Among 196 enrolled patients, insured patients were slightly older [mean 49 years vs 40 years P < 0.05] and more of them were female [65% vs 41% p < 0.05]. Laparotomy (22.2%) was the most common surgical procedure for both groups. Depending on the definition, 58–87% of insured patients would face financial catastrophe, versus 83–98% of uninsured patients (all comparisons by definition were significant, p < .05).

Conclusion
This study—the first to evaluate the impact of insurance on financial risk protection for surgical patients in Ghana—found that although insured patients were less likely than uninsured to face financial catastrophe as a result of their surgery, more than half of insured surgical patients treated at KBTH were not protected from financial catastrophe under the Ghana’s national health insurance scheme due to out-of-pocket payments. Government-specific strategies to increase the proportion of cost covered and to enroll the uninsured is crucial to achieving universal health coverage inclusive of surgical care.

A Liftless Intervention to Prevent Preterm Birth and Low Birthweight Among Pregnant Ghanaian Women: Protocol of a Stepped-Wedge Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial.

Preterm birth (PTB) is a leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Every year, 20 million babies are born with low birthweight (LBW), about 96% of which occur in low-income countries. Despite the associated dangers, in about 40%-50% of PTB and LBW cases, the causes remain unexplained. Existing evidence is inconclusive as to whether occupational physical activities such as heavy lifting are implicated. African women bear the transport burden of accessing basic needs for their families. Ghana’s PTB rate is 14.5%, whereas the global average is 9.6%. The proposed liftless intervention aims to decrease lifting exposure during pregnancy among Ghanaian women. We hypothesize that a reduction in heavy lifting among pregnant women in Ghana will increase gestational age and birthweight.To investigate the effects of the liftless intervention on the incidence of PTB and LBW among pregnant Ghanaian women.A cohort stepped-wedge cluster randomized controlled trial in 10 antenatal clinics will be carried out in Ghana. A total of 1000 pregnant participants will be recruited for a 60-week period. To be eligible, the participant should have a singleton pregnancy between 12 and 16 weeks gestation, be attending any of the 10 antenatal clinics, and be exposed to heavy lifting. All participants will receive standard antenatal care within the control phase; by random allocation, two clusters will transit into the intervention phase. The midwife-led 3-component liftless intervention consists of health education, a take-home reminder card mimicking the colors of a traffic light, and a shopping voucher. The primary outcome are gestational ages of <28, 28-32, and 33-37 weeks. The secondary outcomes are LBW (preterm LBW, term but LBW, and postterm), compliance, prevalence of low back and pelvic pain, and premature uterine contractions. Study midwives and participants will not be blinded to the treatment allocation.Permission to conduct the study at all 10 antenatal clinics has been granted by the Ghana Health Service. Application for funding to begin the trial is ongoing. Findings from the main trial are expected to be published by the end of 2019.To the best of our knowledge, there has been no randomized trial of this nature in Ghana. Minimizing heavy lifting among pregnant African women can reduce the soaring rates of PTB and LBW. The findings will increase the knowledge of the prevention of PTB and LBW worldwide.Pan African Clinical Trial Register (PACTR201602001301205); http://apps.who.int/trialsearch/ Trial2.aspx?TrialID=PACTR201602001301205 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/71TCYkHzu).RR1-10.2196/10095.