Hospitals’ responsibility in response to the threat of infectious disease outbreak in the context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: Implications for low- and middle-income countries

The WHO declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020, and then a pandemic on March 11, 2020. COVID-19 affected over 200 countries and territories worldwide, with 25,541,380 confirmed cases and 852,000 deaths associated with COVID-19 globally, as of September 1, 2020.

While facing such a public health emergency, hospitals were on the front line to deliver health care and psychological services. The early detection, diagnosis, reporting, isolation, and clinical management of patients during a public health emergency required the extensive involvement of hospitals in all aspects. The response capacity of hospitals directly determined the outcomes of the prevention and control of an outbreak.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost all nations and territories regardless of their development level or geographic location, although suitable risk mitigation measures differ between developing and developed countries. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the consequences of the pandemic could be more complicated because incidence and mortality might be associated more with a fragile health care system and shortage of related resources. As evidenced by the situation in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, South Africa, and other LMICs, socioeconomic status (SES) disparity was a major factor in the spread of disease, potentially leading to alarmingly insufficient preparedness and responses in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.4 Conversely, the pandemic might also bring more unpredictable socioeconomic and long-term impacts in LMICs, and those with lower SES fare worse in these situations.

This review aimed to summarize the responsibilities of and measures taken by hospitals in combatting the COVID-19 outbreak. Our findings are hoped to provide experiences, as well as lessons and potential implications for LMICs.

Safe Laparoscopy in Low and Middle Income Countries by reducing Surgical Site Infections through Laparoscopic Instrument Cleaning

Access to safe and affordable surgery is nothing short of a basic human right and people from all walks of life are entitled to it. But, five people from resource-constrained low and middle-income countries are vulnerable and left to fend for themselves when the need for surgery is a life governing event. Inhabitants of these regions are scourged by high mortality and morbidity due to surgical infection caused by the use of unclean and unsterile surgical instruments. Reduction in infections can be achieved by using clean and sterile surgical instruments. Laparoscopy, is a promising technique of surgery developed to efficiently perform complex abdominal surgeries with the use of small and minimum incisions on the patient. Laparoscopy’s minimally invasive nature allows complex surgeries to take place without the need of an absolutely sterile operating room, although the sterility of the surgical instruments cannot be compromised. The added benefit of faster recovery from smaller wounds makes it even more desirable for this context. The Minimally Invasive Surgery and Interventional Techniques Lab of the TU Delft has initiated projects addressing the health and well-being of resource-constrained, underdeveloped communities like rural India through frugal innovation. Rural Indian hospitals are grossly underfunded, under-maintained, and understaffed. Sterile processing practices in rural India are rudimentary compared to high-income hospitals like the ones in the Netherlands. In high-income hospitals, all used surgical instruments are cleaned and sterilized in dedicated central sterile processing departments (CSSD) by highly trained and well protected sterile processing technicians. However, rural India usually employs small teams of local undertrained and semi-literate nurses to carry out every primary and ancillary duty in the hospital. The lack of dedicated CSSDs exacerbates the nurse’s workload and exposure to harmful pathogenic surgical instruments. Laparoscopic instruments developed in high-income nations are seldom designed keeping low resource contexts in mind. The geometrical complexity of instruments keeps increasing but cleaning methods in rural India have stagnated. Resource constraints are a major reason as to why proper international and national guidelines for reprocessing cannot be followed. Hence hospitals cannot guarantee 100% safe and sterile instruments as compared so standardized outcomes in high-income hospitals. In this graduation project, the distinct reprocessing journey of surgical instruments for the two diverse economic contexts were studied. A comparative analysis of both reprocessing journeys uncovered severe unsafe and unfavorable practices in rural India. Significant data and insights from the research have hence paved the way for focusing on the “Cleaning” stage of the laparoscopic instrument reprocessing journey in rural India. This MSc graduation project aims at designing a frugal solution for cleaning and repurposing laparoscopic instruments, dedicated to hospitals in rural India where the demand for laparoscopy is high but surgeries are less due to resource constraints like lack of laparoscopic instruments and repurposing devices. The involvement of an Indian nurse and laparoscopic surgeon provided first-hand information about the problems and requirements in the rural Indian context. Prototyping and testing of various cleaning setups were conducted to extract the most viable design solution. Insights from the research and testing were combined into the concept design of a frugal mechanical washer and subsequently an “Envisioned Reprocessing Journey” for rural Indian hospitals to suggest a standard protocol for keeping most of their existing infrastructure in mind. Evaluations with the Indian nurse revealed that this device could indeed be a game-changer to the existing practices of reprocessing laparoscopic instruments in rural India.

Factors Associated With the Uptake of Cataract Surgery and Interventions to Improve Uptake in Low- And Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review

Despite significant evidence around barriers hindering timely access to cataract surgery in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), little is known about the strategies necessary to overcome them and the factors associated with improved access. Despite significant evidence that certain groups, women for example, experience disproportionate difficulties in access, little is known about how to improve the situation for them. Two reviews were conducted recently: Ramke et al., 2018 reported experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of interventions to improve access of cataract surgical services, and Mercer et al., 2019 investigated interventions to improve gender equity. The aim of this systematic review was to collate, appraise and synthesise evidence from studies on factors associated with uptake of cataract surgery and strategies to improve the uptake in LMICs. We performed a literature search of five electronic databases, google scholar and a detailed reference review. The review identified several strategies that have been suggested to improve uptake of cataract surgery including surgical awareness campaigns; use of successfully operated persons as champions; removal of patient direct and indirect costs; regular community outreach; and ensuring high quality surgeries. Our findings provide the basis for the development of a targeted combination of interventions to improve access and ensure interventions which address barriers are included in planning cataract surgical services. Future research should seek to examine the effectiveness of these strategies and identify other relevant factors associated with intervention effects.

Cost-effectiveness of Emergency Care Interventions in Low and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review

Objective: To systematically review and appraise the quality of cost-effectiveness analyses of emergency care interventions in low- and middle-income countries.

Methods: Following the PRISMA guidelines, we systematically searched PubMed®, Scopus, EMBASE®, Cochrane Library and Web of Science for studies published before May 2019. Inclusion criteria were: (i) an original cost-effectiveness analysis of emergency care intervention or intervention package, and (ii) the analysis occurred in a low- and middle-income setting. To identify additional primary studies, we hand searched the reference lists of included studies. We used the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards guideline to appraise the quality of included studies.

Results: Of the 1674 articles we identified, 35 articles met the inclusion criteria. We identified an additional four studies from the reference lists. We excluded many studies for being deemed costing assessments without an effectiveness analysis. Most included studies were single-intervention analyses. Emergency care interventions evaluated by included studies covered prehospital services, provider training, treatment interventions, emergency diagnostic tools and facilities and packages of care. The reporting quality of the studies varied.

Conclusion: We found large gaps in the evidence surrounding the cost-effectiveness of emergency care interventions in low- and middle-income settings. Given the breadth of interventions currently in practice, many interventions remain unassessed, suggesting the need for future research to aid resource allocation decisions. In particular, packages of multiple interventions and system-level changes represent a priority area for future research.

Surgical Site Infection and Costs in Low- And Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review of the Economic Burden

Background: Surgical site infection (SSI) is a worldwide problem which has morbidity, mortality and financial consequences. The incidence rate of SSI is high in Low- and Middle-Income countries (LMICs) compared to high income countries, and the costly surgical complication can raise the potential risk of financial catastrophe.

Objective: The aim of the study is to critically appraise studies on the cost of SSI in a range of LMIC studies and compare these estimates with a reference standard of high income European studies who have explored similar SSI costs.

Methods: A systematic review was undertaken using searches of two electronic databases, EMBASE and MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, up to February 2019. Study characteristics, comparator group, methods and results were extracted by using a standard template.

Results: Studies from 15 LMIC and 16 European countries were identified and reviewed in full. The additional cost of SSI range (presented in 2017 international dollars) was similar in the LMIC ($174-$29,610) and European countries ($21-$34,000). Huge study design heterogeneity was encountered across the two settings.

Discussion: SSIs were revealed to have a significant cost burden in both LMICs and High Income Countries in Europe. The magnitude of the costs depends on the SSI definition used, severity of SSI, patient population, choice of comparator, hospital setting, and cost items included. Differences in study design affected the comparability across studies. There is need for multicentre studies with standardized data collection methods to capture relevant costs and consequences of the infection across income settings.

Cross-sectional study of surgical quality with a novel evidence-based tool for low-resource settings

Background Adverse events from surgical care are a major cause of death and disability, particularly in low-and-middle-income countries. Metrics for quality of surgical care developed in high-income settings are resource-intensive and inappropriate in most lower resource settings. The purpose of this study was to apply and assess the feasibility of a new tool to measure surgical quality in resource-constrained settings.

Methods This is a cross-sectional study of surgical quality using a novel evidence-based tool for quality measurement in low-resource settings. The tool was adapted for use at a tertiary hospital in Amazonas, Brazil resulting in 14 metrics of quality of care. Nine metrics were collected prospectively during a 4-week period, while five were collected retrospectively from the hospital administrative data and operating room logbooks.

Results 183 surgeries were observed, 125 patient questionnaires were administered and patient charts for 1 year were reviewed. All metrics were successfully collected. The study site met the proposed targets for timely process (7 hours from admission to surgery) and effective outcome (3% readmission rate). Other indicators results were equitable structure (1.1 median patient income to catchment population) and equitable outcome (2.5% at risk of catastrophic expenditure), safe outcome (2.6% perioperative mortality rate) and effective structure (fully qualified surgeon present 98% of cases).

Conclusion It is feasible to apply a novel surgical quality measurement tool in resource-limited settings. Prospective collection of all metrics integrated within existing hospital structures is recommended. Further applications of the tool will allow the metrics and targets to be refined and weighted to better guide surgical quality improvement measures.

Global Retinoblastoma Presentation and Analysis by National Income Level

Early diagnosis of retinoblastoma, the most common intraocular cancer, can save both a child’s life and vision. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that many children across the world are diagnosed late. To our knowledge, the clinical presentation of retinoblastoma has never been assessed on a global scale.

To report the retinoblastoma stage at diagnosis in patients across the world during a single year, to investigate associations between clinical variables and national income level, and to investigate risk factors for advanced disease at diagnosis.

Design, Setting, and Participants
A total of 278 retinoblastoma treatment centers were recruited from June 2017 through December 2018 to participate in a cross-sectional analysis of treatment-naive patients with retinoblastoma who were diagnosed in 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Age at presentation, proportion of familial history of retinoblastoma, and tumor stage and metastasis.

The cohort included 4351 new patients from 153 countries; the median age at diagnosis was 30.5 (interquartile range, 18.3-45.9) months, and 1976 patients (45.4%) were female. Most patients (n = 3685 [84.7%]) were from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Globally, the most common indication for referral was leukocoria (n = 2638 [62.8%]), followed by strabismus (n = 429 [10.2%]) and proptosis (n = 309 [7.4%]). Patients from high-income countries (HICs) were diagnosed at a median age of 14.1 months, with 656 of 666 (98.5%) patients having intraocular retinoblastoma and 2 (0.3%) having metastasis. Patients from low-income countries were diagnosed at a median age of 30.5 months, with 256 of 521 (49.1%) having extraocular retinoblastoma and 94 of 498 (18.9%) having metastasis. Lower national income level was associated with older presentation age, higher proportion of locally advanced disease and distant metastasis, and smaller proportion of familial history of retinoblastoma. Advanced disease at diagnosis was more common in LMICs even after adjusting for age (odds ratio for low-income countries vs upper-middle–income countries and HICs, 17.92 [95% CI, 12.94-24.80], and for lower-middle–income countries vs upper-middle–income countries and HICs, 5.74 [95% CI, 4.30-7.68]).

Conclusions and Relevance
This study is estimated to have included more than half of all new retinoblastoma cases worldwide in 2017. Children from LMICs, where the main global retinoblastoma burden lies, presented at an older age with more advanced disease and demonstrated a smaller proportion of familial history of retinoblastoma, likely because many do not reach a childbearing age. Given that retinoblastoma is curable, these data are concerning and mandate intervention at national and international levels. Further studies are needed to investigate factors, other than age at presentation, that may be associated with advanced disease in LMICs.

Review of antibiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of surgical site infection in low and middle income countries (LMICs)

The Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group (SAPG) is supporting two hospitals in Ghana via a Fleming Fund healthcare partnership to develop antimicrobial stewardship. Initial intelligence gathering suggests that antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent surgical site infection (SSI) is suboptimal. To inform a quality improvement programme we have reviewed the evidence for use of surgical prophylaxis in LMICs including staff behaviours and attitudes.

MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane, CINHAL and Google Scholar were searched from inception to 22 July 2019 for trials, audits, guidelines and systematic review in English. Grey literature, websites and reference lists of included studies were searched. The following data were extracted; study characteristics, interventions, outcomes and recommendations. In view of heterogeneity between studies descriptive analysis was conducted.

Of 185 records screened, 26 studies related to SSI and timing of antibiotic prophylaxis in LMICs were included. The incidence of SSI is significantly higher in LMICs compared with high income countries, recording of infection surveillance data is poor and a lack of local guidelines for antibiotic prophylaxis. Several projects in Africa have reported reduction in SSI with single dose preoperative antibiotic use compared with post-operative prophylaxis and a reduction in cost and nurse time. Despite evidence to the contrary, many surgeons continue to use post-operative antibiotic prophylaxis.

Education to improve incidence of SSI in LMICs through appropriate antibiotic prophylaxis can be successful. Interventions must include local context and address strongly held beliefs. The establishment of local multidisciplinary teams will promote ownership and sustainability of change.

Caesarean Section in Low-, Middle- and High-Income Countries

Caesarean section (CS) refers to delivery of a foetus through surgical incisions made through abdominal and uterine walls. It’s a life-saving procedure when complications arise during pregnancy. It may be an emergency or a planned procedure. Although desirable, CS may be medically unnecessary. CS is a major procedure associated with immediate and long-term maternal and perinatal risks and may have implications for future pregnancies. Since 1985, international healthcare community considers ideal rate for CS to be 10–15%. However, in the last decade, there has been concern about the rising rates of CS from as low as 2% in Africa to as high as 50–60% in Dominican Republic and Latin America. To this effect, there have been attempts to regulate the rates, and the Ten Group Classification System under the Robson criteria is such an attempt. CS rates are on the increase due to varying reasons ranging from patient, institutional, care provider and societal factors. There have been modifications in the CS technique and the drugs used postoperatively from Pitocin to addition of Misoprostol. Need has developed from Reproductive Health Specialists to review indications, rates and terminologies used and evaluate practices in low-, middle- and high-income countries regarding CS.

Maximizing the potential of trauma registries in low-income and middle-income countries

Injury is a major global health issue, resulting in millions of deaths every year. For decades, trauma registries have been used in wealthier countries for injury surveillance and clinical governance, but their adoption has lagged in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). Paradoxically, LMICs face a disproportionately high burden of injury with few resources available to address this pandemic. Despite these resource constraints, several hospitals and regions in LMICs have managed to develop trauma registries to collect information related to the injury event, process of care, and outcome of the injured patient. While the implementation of these trauma registries is a positive step forward in addressing the injury burden in LMICs, numerous challenges still stand in the way of maximizing the potential of trauma registries to inform injury prevention, mitigation, and improve quality of trauma care. This paper outlines several of these challenges and identifies potential solutions that can be adopted to improve the functionality of trauma registries in resource-poor contexts. Increased recognition and support for trauma registry development and improvement in LMICs is critical to reducing the burden of injury in these settings.