Challenges in Providing Surgical Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Qualitative Study Among Operating Department Practitioners in Pakistan

ackground: Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs) are neglected human resources for health with regard to both professional development and research for patient safety. The surgical theatre is associated with the highest mortality rates and with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. ODPs are key practitioners with respect to infection control during surgeries. Therefore, this study aims to describe challenges faced by ODPs. The secondary aim is to use empirical evidence to inform the public health sector management about both ODP professional development and improvement in surgical procedures, with a specific focus on pandemics.

Methods: A qualitative study has been conducted. Data collection was based on an interview guide with open-ended questions. Interviews with 39 ODPs in public sector teaching hospitals of Pakistan who have been working during the COVID-19 pandemic were part of the analysis. Content analysis was used to generate themes.

Results: Ten themes related to challenges faced by ODPs in delivering services during the pandemic for securing patient safety were identified: (i) Disparity in training for prevention of COVID-19; (ii) Shortcomings in COVID-19 testing; (iii) Supply shortages of personal protective equipment; (iv) Challenges in maintaining physical distance and prevention protocols; (v) Human resource shortages and role burden; (vi) Problems with hospital administration; (vii) Exclusion and hierarchy; (viii) Teamwork limitations and other communication issues; (ix) Error Management; and (x) Anxiety and fear.

Conclusions: The public health sector, in Pakistan and other developing regions, need to invest in the professional development of ODPs and improve resources and structures for surgical procedures, during pandemics and otherwis