A Journey Undertaken by Families to Access General Surgical Care for their Children at Muhimbili National Hospital, Tanzania; Prospective Observational Cohort Study

Background
A majority of the 2 billion children lacking access to safe, timely and affordable surgical care reside in low-and middle-income countries. A barrier to tackling this issue is the paucity of information regarding children’s journey to surgical care. We aimed to explore children’s journeys and its implications on accessing general paediatric surgical care at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), a tertiary centre in Tanzania.

Methods
A prospective observational cohort study was undertaken at MNH, recruiting patients undergoing elective and emergency surgeries. Data on socio-demographic, clinical, symptoms onset and 30-days post-operative were collected. Descriptive statistics and Mann–Whitney, Kruskal–Wallis and Fisher’s exact tests were used for data analysis.

Result
We recruited 154 children with a median age of 36 months. The majority were referred from regional hospitals due to a lack of paediatric surgery expertise. The time taken to seeking care was significantly greater in those who self-referred (p = 0.0186). Of these participants, 68.4 and 31.1% were able to reach a referring health facility and MNH, respectively, within 2 h of deciding to seek care. Overall insurance coverage was 75.32%. The median out of pocket expenditure for receiving care was $69.00. The incidence of surgical site infection was 10.2%, and only 2 patients died.

Conclusion
Although there have been significant efforts to improve access to safe, timely and affordable surgical care, there is still a need to strengthen children’s surgical care system. Investing in regional hospitals may be an effective approach to improve access to children surgical care.

Prospective, observational study of perioperative critical incidents, anaesthesia and mortality in elective paediatric surgical patients at a national referral hospital in Niger

Aims: To describe perioperative critical incidents, the conduct of anaesthesia and perioperative mortality in elective paediatric surgery patients in a national referral hospital in Niger.

Methods: This is a prospective, observational study conducted from January to March 2018. All paediatric patients 15 years an younger, who underwent elective surgery in the Niamey National Hospital were included. The following variables were studied: age, sex, type of surgery, American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status (ASA PS) classification, monitoring system, anaesthesia technique, critical incidents, blood transfusion, analgesia, qualification of the anaesthesia practitioner, postoperative destination and mortality. Data were analysed with Excel 2007 and Epi Info 6™ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA). The chi2 test was used for univariate associations with critical incidents. Statistical significance was considered if p < 0.05. Results: There were 231 (27.2%) paediatric patients of 849 surgical patients during the study period. Within the paediatric group, the mean age was 6 ± 4 years. The male:female sex ratio was 1.65. A full blood count was completed preoperatively in all patients. Three per cent of the patients received a preoperative blood transfusion. The most frequently performed surgery was abdominal (42.4%). Most patients were classified as ASA PS I (55%) and ASA PS II (45%). General anaesthesia was performed in 96.1% of cases and spinal anaesthesia in 3.9%. The median duration of general anaesthesia was 63 (interquartile range 45–90) minutes. There were 27 reported critical incidents (11.7%), ten of which occurred during induction (4.9%), five intraoperatively (2.2%) and 12 postoperatively (5.2%). Multimodal postoperative analgesia was used in 33.8% of these patients. One patient died in the postoperative period (0.43%). Conclusion: Perioperative critical incidents in paediatric surgical patients in Niger remain high. To improve this situation requires paediatric training of anaesthetic staff, and improved paediatric monitoring and the use of safer anaesthesia agents.

Analysing the Operative Experience of Paediatric Surgical Trainees in Sub-Saharan Africa Using a Web-Based Logbook

Background
The expansion of local training programmes is crucial to address the shortages of specialist paediatric surgeons across Sub-Saharan Africa. This study assesses whether the current training programme for paediatric surgery at the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) is exposing trainees to adequate numbers and types of surgical procedures, as defined by local and international guidelines.
Methods
Using data from the COSECSA web-based logbook, we retrospectively analysed numbers and types of operations carried out by paediatric surgical trainees at each stage of training between 2015 and 2019, comparing results with indicative case numbers from regional (COSECSA) and international (Joint Commission on Surgical Training) guidelines.
Results
A total of 7,616 paediatric surgical operations were recorded by 15 trainees, at different stages of training, working across five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Each trainee recorded a median number of 456 operations (range 56–1111), with operative experience increasing between the first and final year of training. The most commonly recorded operation was inguinal hernia (n = 1051, 13.8%). Trainees performed the majority (n = 5607, 73.6%) of operations recorded in the eLogbook themselves, assisting in the remainder. Trainees exceeded both local and international recommended case numbers for general surgical procedures, with little exposure to sub-specialities.
Conclusions
Trainees obtain a wide experience in common and general paediatric surgical procedures, the number of which increases during training. Post-certification may be required for those who wish to sub-specialise. The data from the logbook are useful in identifying individuals who may require additional experience and centres which should be offering increased levels of supervised surgical exposure.

Evaluation of a Ten-Year Team-Based Collaborative Capacity-Building Program for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in Uzbekistan: Lessons and Implications

Background:
Most children who have congenital heart disease in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), including Uzbekistan, do not receive adequate and timely pediatric cardiac surgical care. To strengthen the surgical capacity of a local pediatric cardiac surgery team in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the JW LEE Center for Global Medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine has developed a team-based training program and has been collaboratively conducting surgeries and care in order to transfer on-site knowledge and skills from 2009 to 2019.

Objectives:
To evaluate the long-term effects of the collaborative program on the cardiac surgical capacity of medical staff (teamwork, surgical complexity, and patients’ pre-surgical weights) as well as changes in the lives of the patients and their families. To derive lessons and challenges for other pediatric cardiac surgical programs in LMICs.

Methods:
To assess the effects of this ten-year long program, a mixed-methods design was developed to examine the trend of surgical complexity measured by Risk Adjustment for Congenital Heart Surgery 1 score (RACHS-1) and patients’ pre-surgical weights via medical record review (surgical cases: n = 107) during the decade. Qualitative data was analyzed from in-depth interviews (n = 31) with Uzbek and Korean medical staff (n = 10; n = 4) and caregivers (n = 17).

Findings:
During the decade, the average RACHS-1 of the cases increased from 1.9 in 2010 to 2.78 in 2019. The average weight of patients decreased by 2.8 kg from 13 kg to 10.2 kg during the decade. Qualitative findings show that the surgical capacity, as well as attitudes toward patients and colleagues of the Uzbek medical staff, improved through the effective collaboration between the Uzbek and Korean teams. Changes in the lives of patients and their families were also found following successful surgery.

Conclusions:
Team-based training of the workforce in Uzbekistan was effective in improving the surgical skills, teamwork, and attitudes of medical staff, in addition, a positive impact on the life of patients and their families was demonstrated. It can be an effective solution to facilitate improvements in pediatric cardiovascular disease in LMICs if training is sustained over a long period.

Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children’s surgery in Africa

An outbreak of the disease known as COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, has rapidly spread to all continents of the globe. First detected via local hospital surveillance systems as a ‘pneumonia of unknown aetiology’ in late December 2019, the disease has since been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO and reached pandemic status.

It is uncertain what the eventual toll of the pandemic will be in Africa; however, there has been a suspicion that the looming pandemic may hit harder than it has the rest of the world. Africa has baseline weaknesses in healthcare resource allocation, and her fragile healthcare systems are particularly vulnerable to being overwhelmed by this illness. Available statistics, to date, however, seem to show that the pandemic has been slow to begin. As of 26 May, 115 346 cases and 3471 deaths have been reported across the whole African continent, constituting 2% of all cases in the globe. African nations have had an opportunity to prepare for the coming onslaught, learn from the experience in other countries and choose interventions that are tailor-made for the unique socioeconomic context.

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