Online action planning forums to develop a roadmap to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of global children’s surgical care

We aimed to understand the challenges facing children’s surgical care providers globally and realistic interventions to mitigate the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on children’s surgery.

Two online Action Planning Forums (APFs) were organized by the Global Initiative for Children’s Surgery (GICS) with a geographically diverse panel representing four children’s surgical, anesthesia, and nursing subspecialties. Qualitative analysis was performed to identify codes, themes, and subthemes.

The most frequently reported challenges were delayed access to care for children; fear among the public and patients; unavailability of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE); diversion of resources toward COVID-19 care; and interruption in student and trainee hands-on education. To address these challenges, panelists recommended human resource and funding support to minimize backlog; setting up international, multi-center studies for systematic data collection specifically for children; providing online educational opportunities for trainees and students in the form of large and small group discussions; developing best practice guidelines; and, most importantly, adapting solutions to local needs.

Identification of key challenges and interventions to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global children’s surgery via an objective, targeted needs assessment serves as an essential first step. Key interventions in these areas are underway.

Medical Students in Global Neurosurgery: Rationale and Role

Global neurosurgery aims to build equity in neurosurgical care worldwide. The active involvement of early-career general practitioners, neurosurgical residents, and medical students in global neurosurgery is critical for the development of sustainable strategies to address inequalities. However, the rationale for medical student involvement in global neurosurgery and strategies to increase medical student involvement have not been described previously. We characterize why medical students are fundamental to the success of global neurosurgery initiatives, outline existing opportunities for medical students in the global neurosurgery space, and delineatehow to incorporate medical students into various global neurosurgery initiatives

Development of an Interactive Global Surgery Course for Interdisciplinary Learners

Introduction: Global surgical care is increasingly recognized in the global health agenda and requires multidisciplinary engagement. Despite high interest among medical students, residents and other learners, many surgical faculty and health experts remain uniformed about global surgical care.

Methods: We have operated an interdisciplinary graduate-level course in Global Surgical Care based on didactics and interactive group learning. Students completed a pre- and post-course survey regarding their learning experiences and results were analyzed using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.

Results: Fourteen students completed the pre-course survey, and 11 completed the post-course survey. Eleven students (79%) were enrolled in a Master’s degree program in global health, with eight students (57%) planning to attend medical school. The median ranking of surgery on the global health agenda was fifth at the beginning of the course and third at the conclusion (p = 0.11). Non-infectious disease priorities tended to stay the same or increase in rank from pre- to post-course. Infectious disease priorities tended to decrease in rank (HIV/AIDS, p = 0.07; malaria, p = 0.02; neglected infectious disease, p = 0.3). Students reported that their understanding of global health (p = 0.03), global surgery (p = 0.001) and challenges faced by the underserved (p = 0.03) improved during the course. When asked if surgery was an indispensable part of healthcare, before the course 64% of students strongly agreed, while after the course 91% of students strongly agreed (p = 0.3). Students reported that the interactive nature of the course strengthened their skills in collaborative problem-solving.

Conclusions: We describe an interdisciplinary global surgery course that integrates didactics with team-based projects. Students appeared to learn core topics and held a different view of global surgery after the course. Similar courses in global surgery can educate clinicians and other stakeholders about strategies for building healthy surgical systems worldwide.

Genitourinary reconstructive surgery curriculum and postgraduate training program development in the Caribbean

Objectives: To describe the development of a genitourinary reconstructive fellowship curriculum and the establishment of the first genitourinary reconstructive and pelvic floor postgraduate training program in the Caribbean.

Methods: In an effort to respond to the need for specialty-trained reconstructive urologists in the Dominican Republic, we developed an18-month fellowship program to train local surgeons. The process began with creation of a curriculum and partnership with in-country physicians, societies, hospitals, and government officials. We sought accreditation via a well-established local university, and fellowship candidates were selected. A database was maintained to track outcomes. Subjective and objective reviews were performed of the fellows.

Results: The first fellow graduated in 2018, the second in 2020, and the third is currently in training. The curriculum was created and implemented. The fellowship has been successfully integrated into the health system, and the fellows performed 199 and 235 cases, respectively, during the program, completing all rotations successfully. They have been appointed to the national health system. Both graduates are now docents in the program and in the public system. Additional staff including radiologists, radiology technicians, nurses, urology residents (both Dominican and American), urology attendings, operating room staff, and anesthesia residents were trained as a result of the program.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first fellowship of its kind in the Caribbean. A novel curriculum was created and implemented, and the first 2 fellows have successfully completed all rotations. This training model may be transferable to additional sites.

World Health Assembly 73: A Step Forward for Global Surgery

Member States at this year’s World Health Assembly 73 (WHA73), held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, passed multiple resolutions that must be considered when framing efforts to strengthen surgical systems. Surgery has been a relatively neglected field in the global health landscape due to its nature as a crosscutting treatment rather than focusing on a specific disease or demographic. However, in recent years, access to essential and emergency surgical, obstetric, and anesthesia care has gained increasing recognition as a vital aspect of global health. The WHA73 Resolutions concern specific conditions, as has been characteristic of global health practice, yet proper care for each highlighted disease is inextricably linked to surgical care. Global surgery advocates must recognize how surgical system strengthening aligns with these strategic priorities in order to ensure that surgical care continues to be integrated into efforts to decrease global health disparities.

Surgical residents’ opinions on international surgical residency in Flanders, Belgium

International electives benefit training of medical residents due to exposure to an increased scope of pathologies, improved physical examination skills, communication across cultural boundaries and more efficient resource utilization. Currently there is no mechanism for Belgian surgical residents to participate in international training opportunities and little research has addressed the international mobility of Belgian residents. The goal of this study was to examine the attitudes of Belgian residents towards international training among surgical residents.

An anonymous, structured electronic questionnaire was sent to a cohort of Belgian residents, including surgical residents, by e-mail and social media.

In total, 342 respondents filled out the questionnaire out of a total of 5906 Belgian residents. The results showed that 334 of the residents came from Flanders (10.8%) and 8 came from French-speaking Brussels and Wallonia (0.28%). Surgical specialties represented 46% of respondents and included surgical, obstetric and anaesthesiology residents. The majority (98%) were interested in an international rotation, both in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and in high-income countries. A total of 84% were willing to conduct an international rotation during holidays and 91% would participate even when their international stay would not be recognised as part of their residency training. A minority (38%) had undertaken an international rotation in the past and, of those, 5% went to an LMIC.

The majority of surgical residents consider an international rotation as educationally beneficial, even though they are rarely undertaken. Our survey shows that in order to facilitate foreign rotations, Flemish universities and governmental institutions will have to alleviate the regulatory, logistical and financial constraints.

Estimation of the National Surgical Needs in India by Enumerating the Surgical Procedures in an Urban Community Under Universal Health Coverage

11% of the global burden of disease requires surgical care or anaesthesia management or both. Some studies have estimated this burden to be as high as 30%. The Lancet Commission for Global Surgery (LCoGS) estimated that 5000 surgeries are required to meet the surgical burden of disease for 100,000 people in LMICs. Studies from LMICs, estimating surgical burden based on enumeration of surgeries, are sparse.

We performed this study in an urban population availing employees’ heath scheme in Mumbai, India. Surgical procedures performed in 2017 and 2018, under this free and equitable health scheme, were enumerated. We estimated the surgical needs for national population, based on age and sex distribution of surgeries and age standardization from our cohort.

A total of 4642 surgeries were performed per year for a population of 88,273. Cataract (22.8%), Caesareans (3.8%), surgeries for fractures (3.27%) and hernia (2.86%) were the commonest surgeries. 44.2% of surgeries belonged to the essential surgeries. We estimated 3646 surgeries would be required per 100,000 Indian population per year. One-third of these surgeries would be needed for the age group 30–49 years, in the Indian population.

A total of 3646 surgeries were estimated annually to meet the surgical needs of Indian population as compared to the global estimate of 5000 surgeries per 100,000 people. Caesarean section, cataract, surgeries for fractures and hernia are the major contributors to the surgical needs. More enumeration-based studies are needed for better estimates from rural as well as other urban areas.

Designing devices for global surgery: evaluation of participatory and frugal design methods

Most people living in low- and middle-income countries have no access to surgical care. Equipping under-resourced health care contexts with appropriate surgical equipment is thus critical. “Global” technologies must be designed specifically for these contexts. But while models, approaches and methods have been developed for the design of equipment for global surgery, few studies describe their implementation or evaluate their adequacy for this purpose.

A multidisciplinary team applied participatory and frugal design methods to design a surgical device for gasless laparoscopy. The team employed a formal roadmap, devised to guide the development of global surgical equipment, to structure the design process into phases. Phases 0–1 comprised primary research with surgeons working in low-resource settings and forming collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders. These participated in phases 2–3 through design workshops and video events. To conclude, surgical stakeholders (n=13) evaluated a high-fidelity prototype in a cadaveric study.

The resulting design, “RAIS” (Retractor for Abdominal Insufflation-less Surgery), received positive feedback from rural surgeons keen to embrace and champion innovation as a result of the close collaboration and participatory design methods employed. The roadmap provided a valuable means to structure the design process but this evaluation highlighted the need for further development to detail specific methodology. The project outcomes were used to develop recommendations for innovators designing global surgical equipment.

To inform early phases in the design roadmap, engaging a variety of stakeholders to provide regular input is crucial. Effective communication is vital to elucidate clear functional design requirements and hence reveal opportunities for frugal innovation. Finally, responsible innovation must be embedded within the process of designing devices for global surgery.

A community-wide effort is required to formally evaluate and optimize processes for designing global surgical devices and hence accelerate adoption of frugal surgical technologies in low-resource settings.

A Situational Analysis of the Specialist Anaesthesia Workforce of East, Central and Southern Africa

Background: An accurate account of the distribution of qualied anaesthesiologists in East, Central and Southern Africa has been lacking with most of the current publications being estimates of headline gures. As university training programmes, and more recently the College of Anaesthesiologists of East, Central and Southern Africa (CANECSA), work to scale up the anaesthesiology workforce, it is crucial to understand the scope of the need by carrying out an extensive survey. This is key to informing policymakers and stakeholders for tackling the problem of human resources for anaesthesia.

Methods: The anaesthesiologist distribution in the eight CANECSA member countries was determined using a combination existing databases and collection of new data from sources such as CANECSA records, national medical council registers, national anaesthesiology society records, as well as data validation through direct and indirect contact with the anaesthesiologists. Data collation and analysis was performed using Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets and SPSS by assessing relevant frequencies and crosstabulations. Data was stored in a cloud-based database managed by CANECSA.

Results: 411 qualified anaesthesiologists were identied within the CANECSA member countries, a rate of 0.21 anaesthesiologists per 100,000 population compared to 333 (0.17 anaesthesiologists per 100,000 population) reported by the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiology (WFSA) in 2015/2016. Newly quantified details on the distribution of anesthesiologists in the region include: the majority (89.5%) of anaesthesiologists perform clinical work and most (69.3%) are based in the main commercial cities of their countries of practice; only about one third (35.5%) are female; the majority are employed by government institutions (61.6%) and medical-training institutions (59.4%); and almost half (49.2%) of anaesthesiologists whose age was recorded ranged from 30 to 39 years.

Conclusion: The numbers of anaesthesiologists in CANECSA member countries are still far below all international recommendations constituting only about 5% of the minimum recommended figures for LMICs. Anaesthesiologist are highly concentrated in the major cities of the region, with few in provincial and rural areas. Nonetheless, all trends suggest huge opportunities for advancing training of more
anaesthesiologists through collaborative efforts.

Surgical data strengthening in Ethiopia: results of a Kirkpatrick framework evaluation of a data quality intervention

Background: One key challenge in improving surgical care in resource-limited settings is the lack of high-quality and informative data. In Ethiopia, the Safe Surgery 2020 (SS2020) project developed surgical key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate surgical care within the country. New data collection methods were developed and piloted in 10 SS2020 intervention hospitals in the Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia.

Objective: To assess the feasibility of collecting and reporting new surgical indicators and measure the impact of a surgical Data Quality Intervention (DQI) in rural Ethiopian hospitals.

Methods: An 8-week DQI was implemented to roll-out new data collection tools in SS2020 hospitals. The Kirkpatrick Method, a widely used mixed-method evaluation framework for training programs, was used to assess the impact of the DQI. Feedback surveys and focus groups at various timepoints evaluated the impact of the intervention on surgical data quality, the feasibility of a new data collection system, and the potential for national scale-up.

Results: Results of the evaluation are largely positive and promising. DQI participants reported knowledge gain, behavior change, and improved surgical data quality, as well as greater teamwork, communication, leadership, and accountability among surgical staff. Barriers remained in collection of high-quality data, such as lack of adequate human resources and electronic data reporting infrastructure.

Conclusions: Study results are largely positive and make evident that surgical data capture is feasible in low-resource settings and warrants more investment in global surgery efforts. This type of training and mentorship model can be successful in changing individual behavior and institutional culture regarding surgical data collection and reporting. Use of the Kirkpatrick Framework for evaluation of a surgical DQI is an innovative contribution to literature and can be easily adapted and expanded for use within global surgery.