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

Purpose
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.

Methods
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.

Results
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.

Conclusion
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.