Is the Whole Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts? The Implementation and Outcomes of a Whole Blood Program in Ecuador

Background: Hemorrhagic shock is a major cause of mortality in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). Many institutions in LMICs lack the resources to adequately prescribe balanced resuscitation. This study aims to describe the implementation of a whole blood program in Latin America and discuss the outcomes of the patients that received whole blood (WB).

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of patients resuscitated with WB from 2013-2019. Five units of O+ WB were made available on a consistent basis for patients presenting in hemorrhagic shock. Variables collected included: sex, age, service treating the patient, units of WB administered, units of components administered, admission vital signs, admission hemoglobin, Shock Index, intraoperative crystalloid and colloid administration, symptoms of transfusion reaction, length-of-stay and in-hospital mortality.

Results: The sample includes a total of 101 patients, 57 of whom were trauma and acute care surgery (TACS) patients and 44 of whom were obstetrics and gynecology patients. No patients developed symptoms consistent with a transfusion reaction. Average shock index was 1.16 (±0.55). On average, patients received 1.66 (±0.80) units of whole blood. Overall mortality was 14/101 (13.86%) in the first 24 hours and 6/101 (5.94%) after 24 hours.

Conclusion: Implementing a WB protocol is achievable in LMICs. Whole blood allows for more efficient delivery of hemostatic resuscitation and is ideal for resource-restrained settings. To our knowledge, this is the first description of a whole blood program implemented in a civilian hospital in Latin America.

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.

We Asked the Experts: Global Surgery—Seeing Beyond the Silo

The COVID-19 pandemic requires comprehensive health systems response, with 14% of infected people developing severe sickness leading to hospitalization and 5% admitted to an intensive care unit [1]. The need for oxygen and intensive care means that perhaps for the first time, surgery and anesthesia find themselves playing a central role in a global health emergency; but is global surgery integrated enough to the wider global health community to have an impact?

Why Do They Leave? Challenges to Retention of Surgical Clinical Officers in District Hospitals in Malawi

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are the worst affected by a lack of safe and affordable access to safe surgery. The significant unmet surgical need can be in part attributed to surgical workforce shortages that disproportionately affect rural areas of these countries. To combat this, Malawi has introduced a cadre of non-physician clinicians (NPCs) called clinical officers (COs), trained to the level of a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Surgery. This study explored the barriers and enablers to their retention in rural district hospitals (DHs), as perceived by the first cohort of COs trained to BSc in Surgery level in Malawi.

A longitudinal qualitative research approach was used based on interviews with 16 COs, practicing at DHs, during their BSc training (2015); and again with 15 of them after their graduation (2019). Data from both time points were analysed and compared using a top-down thematic analysis approach.

Of the 16 COs interviewed in 2015, 11 intended to take up a post at a DH following graduation; however, only 6 subsequently did so. The major barriers to remaining in a DH post as perceived by these COs were lack of promotion, a more attractive salary elsewhere; and unclear, stagnant career progression within surgery. For those who remained working in DH posts, the main enablers are a willingness to accept a low salary, to generate greater opportunities to engage in additional earning opportunities; the hope of promotional opportunities within the government system; and greater responsibility and recognition of their surgical knowledge and skills as a BSc-holder at the district level.

The sustainability of surgically trained NPCs in Malawi is not assured and further work is required to develop and implement successful retention strategies, which will require a multi-sector approach. This paper provides insights into barriers and enablers to retention of this newly-introduced cadre and has important lessons for policy-makers in Malawi and other countries employing NPCs to deliver essential surgery.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Frugal innovation for global surgery: leveraging lessons from low- and middle-income countries to optimise resource use and promote value-based care

Limited or inconsistent access to necessary resources creates many challenges for delivering quality medical care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These include funding and revenue, skilled clinical and allied health professionals, administrative expertise, reliable community infrastructure (eg water, electricity), functioning capital equipment and sufficient surgical supplies. Despite these challenges, some surgical care providers manage to provide cost effective, high quality care, offering lessons not only for other LMICs but also for high-income countries (HICs) that are working towards increasing value-based care. Examples would be how to optimise the consumption of resources, and reduce the environmental and public health burden of surgical care.

Owing to the liberal utilisation of capital equipment and single-use supplies, surgical care in HICs is increasingly recognised as a significant source of greenhouse gases and other environmental impacts that adversely affect human health. Regulations require many potentially reusable supplies and drugs to be discarded after single use. Supply manufacturers may label drugs or products as single-use to increase profit, reduce liability or facilitate regulatory approval. Many HICs struggle to increase the value of care while maximising quality and outcomes, and minimising cost and resource use.

Salome Maswime: dynamic leader in global surgery

As Associate Professor and Head of Global Surgery at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, Salome Maswime is aware of the scale of the job in front of her. “For me the big problem is the disconnect between health systems and clinical care in low and middle income countries, especially concerning surgical care. Outcomes are often poor, there being not enough focus on the quality of surgery, and how it relates to integrated health care and overarching health systems performance”, she explains. Maswime saw such shortcomings first hand in her clinical career in obstetrics and gynaecology, before she took up the new post as Head of Global Surgery at UCT in July, 2019.

Investing in Surgery: A Value Proposition for African Leaders

Globally, poor access to high-quality surgical, obstetric, and anaesthesia care remains a main contributor to global disease burden accounting for about a third of deaths worldwide. The need for strengthening surgical care systems is especially urgent in sub-Saharan Africa, where access is strikingly limited, leading to the highest mortality and morbidity from surgically preventable and treatable conditions in the world. Approximately 93% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to safe, affordable, and timely surgical care, compared with less than 10% in high-income countries.2 Despite the immense and growing need for surgical services in sub-Saharan Africa, investments by African public sector leaders to improve surgical systems on the subcontinent have been inadequate. The current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted health care globally, with an estimation by the CovidSurg Collaborative showing that more than 28 million surgeries will be postponed or cancelled worldwide during the 12 weeks of peak disruption. There is a basic ethical responsibility to provide surgical care as a fundamental human right, in keeping with the principles espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, improved access to high-quality surgical care is an essential component of universal health coverage and will contribute to good health and wellbeing, leading to improved human capital—all of which are vital for poverty reduction and economic growth on the continent.

The global burden of musculoskeletal injury in low and lower-middle income countries

While the global burden of musculoskeletal injury is increasingly recognized, few epidemiologic studies have specifically recorded its incidence or prevalence, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Understanding the burden of musculoskeletal injury relative to other health conditions is critical to effective allocation of resources to mitigate the disability that results from trauma. The current study aims to systematically review the existing primary literature on the incidence and prevalence of pelvic and appendicular fractures, a major component of musculoskeletal injury, in low- and lower-middle income countries (LMICs).

This study conforms to the systematic review and traditional meta-analysis guidelines outlined in the PRISMA-P statement. Incidence rates were calculated as the occurrence of new fracture cases per 100,000 person-years, and prevalence as total fracture cases per population sample, reported as percentages.

The literature search yielded 3497 total citations. There were 21 full-text articles, representing 14 different countries, selected for data extraction. Included studies reported a wide range of incidence and prevalence rates, with an overall mean fracture incidence ranging from 779 (95% CI: 483.0–1188.7) to 1574 (95% CI: 1285.1–1915.1) per 100,000 person-years.

Better understanding the unmet burden of musculoskeletal injury in LMICs is critical to effectively allocating resources and advocating for underserved populations. To address existing gaps and heterogeneity within the literature, future research should incorporate population-based sampling with broader geographic representation in LMICs to more accurately capture the burden of disease.

Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 on Progress Towards Achieving Global Surgery Goals

Introduction: In the 5 months since it began, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on health systems around the world including surgery. Competing health objectives and resource redeployment threaten to retard the scale-up of surgical services in low- and middle-income countries where access to safe, affordable and timely care is low. The key aspiration of the Lancet Commission on global surgery was promotion of resilience in surgical systems. The current pandemic provides an opportunity to stress-test those systems and identify fault-lines that may not be easily apparent outside of times of crisis.

Methods: We endeavoured to explore vulnerable points in surgical systems learning from the experience of past outbreaks, using examples from the current pandemic, and make recommendations for future health emergencies. The 6-component framework for surgical systems planning was used to categorise the effects of COVID-19 on surgical systems, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries. Key vulnerabilities were identified and recommendations were made for the current pandemic and for the future.

Results: Multiple stress points were identified throughout all of the 6 components of surgical systems. The impact is expected to be highest in the workforce, service delivery and infrastructure domains. Innovative new technologies should be employed to allow consistent, high-quality surgical care to continue even in times of crisis.

Conclusions: If robust progress towards global surgery goals for 2030 is to continue, the stress points identified should be reinforced. An ongoing process of reappraisal and fortification will keep surgical systems in low- and middle-income countries responsive to “old threats and new challenges”. Multiple opportunities exist to help realise the dream of surgical systems resilient to external shocks.