The role of community health workers in the surgical cascade: a scoping review

Community health workers (CHWs) can increase access to various primary healthcare services; however, their potential for improving surgical care is under-explored. We sought to assess the role of CHWs in the surgical cascade, defined as disease screening, linkage to operative care, and post-operative care. Given the well-described literature on CHWs and screening, we focused on the latter two steps of the surgical cascade.

We conducted a scoping review of the peer-reviewed literature. We searched for studies published in any language from January 1, 2000 to May 1, 2020 using electronic literature databases including Pubmed/MEDLINE, Web of Science, SCOPUS, and Google Scholar. We included articles on CHW involvement in linkage to operative care and/or post-operative surgical care. Narrative and descriptive methods were used to analyze the data.

The initial search identified 145 articles relevant to steps in the surgical cascade. Ten studies met our inclusion criteria and were included for review. In linkage to care, CHWs helped increase surgical enrollment, provide resources for vulnerable patients, and build trust in healthcare services. Post-operatively, CHWs acted as effective monitors for surgical-site infections and provided socially isolated patients with support and linkage to additional services. The complex and wide-ranging needs of surgical patients illustrated the need to view surgical care as a continuum rather than a singular operative event.

While the current literature is limited, CHWs were able to maneuver complex medical, cultural, and social barriers to surgical care by linking patients to counseling, education, and community resources, as well as post-operative infection prevention services. Future studies would benefit from more rigorous study designs and larger sample sizes to further elucidate the role CHWs can serve in the surgical cascade.

Effect of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns on planned cancer surgery for 15 tumour types in 61 countries: an international, prospective, cohort study

Surgery is the main modality of cure for solid cancers and was prioritised to continue during COVID-19 outbreaks. This study aimed to identify immediate areas for system strengthening by comparing the delivery of elective cancer surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic in periods of lockdown versus light restriction.

This international, prospective, cohort study enrolled 20 006 adult (≥18 years) patients from 466 hospitals in 61 countries with 15 cancer types, who had a decision for curative surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic and were followed up until the point of surgery or cessation of follow-up (Aug 31, 2020). Average national Oxford COVID-19 Stringency Index scores were calculated to define the government response to COVID-19 for each patient for the period they awaited surgery, and classified into light restrictions (index 60). The primary outcome was the non-operation rate (defined as the proportion of patients who did not undergo planned surgery). Cox proportional-hazards regression models were used to explore the associations between lockdowns and non-operation. Intervals from diagnosis to surgery were compared across COVID-19 government response index groups. This study was registered at, NCT04384926.

Of eligible patients awaiting surgery, 2003 (10·0%) of 20 006 did not receive surgery after a median follow-up of 23 weeks (IQR 16–30), all of whom had a COVID-19-related reason given for non-operation. Light restrictions were associated with a 0·6% non-operation rate (26 of 4521), moderate lockdowns with a 5·5% rate (201 of 3646; adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 0·81, 95% CI 0·77–0·84; p<0·0001), and full lockdowns with a 15·0% rate (1775 of 11 827; HR 0·51, 0·50–0·53; p<0·0001). In sensitivity analyses, including adjustment for SARS-CoV-2 case notification rates, moderate lockdowns (HR 0·84, 95% CI 0·80–0·88; p<0·001), and full lockdowns (0·57, 0·54–0·60; p<0·001), remained independently associated with non-operation. Surgery beyond 12 weeks from diagnosis in patients without neoadjuvant therapy increased during lockdowns (374 [9·1%] of 4521 in light restrictions, 317 [10·4%] of 3646 in moderate lockdowns, 2001 [23·8%] of 11 827 in full lockdowns), although there were no differences in resectability rates observed with longer delays.

Cancer surgery systems worldwide were fragile to lockdowns, with one in seven patients who were in regions with full lockdowns not undergoing planned surgery and experiencing longer preoperative delays. Although short-term oncological outcomes were not compromised in those selected for surgery, delays and non-operations might lead to long-term reductions in survival. During current and future periods of societal restriction, the resilience of elective surgery systems requires strengthening, which might include protected elective surgical pathways and long-term investment in surge capacity for acute care during public health emergencies to protect elective staff and services.

National Institute for Health Research Global Health Research Unit, Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland, Bowel and Cancer Research, Bowel Disease Research Foundation, Association of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons, British Association of Surgical Oncology, British Gynaecological Cancer Society, European Society of Coloproctology, Medtronic, Sarcoma UK, The Urology Foundation, Vascular Society for Great Britain and Ireland, and Yorkshire Cancer Research.

An Ethnographic Study of Nursing on a Surgery Ship Providing Humanitarian Care

Less than half the world’s population has access to essential health services (United Nations, 2020), the majority of whom live in low to middle-income countries (LMICs; Meara et al., 2015). The inability to access health services denies people a life of dignity. To bridge this current gap in the provision of health care, nongovernmental organisations are responding by deploying specialist, short term healthcare teams (Ng-Kamstra et al., 2016). Nurses, as the largest group of health professionals, provide care within those teams. Substantial literature is linked to nurses deployed in a disaster response situation, However, there is limited research into nurses’ roles within teams meeting a humanitarian response outside that urgent disaster context, and what their contribution brings. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore nursing involvement within humanitarian healthcare provision to generate insight into the area of humanitarian nursing in an acute, short term, nondisaster context and to extend the research literature surrounding this topic. The study was framed within the context of a faith-based nongovernmental organisation delivering specialist surgery on a civilian hospital ship. The aim was to advance the mission and purpose of humanitarian (nondisaster) nursing, providing a detailed description of the culture of nursing care in that setting. An interpretivist standpoint, influenced by a social constructivist theoretical position, was taken. Data were collected over 6 months, using participant observation, a reflection of artefacts, and the collective voice of volunteer nurses. Thematic analysis was conducted considering Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) guidelines. Findings elucidated nursing within the context of a community of nursing practice (CoNP), revealing four major themes: (1) “What drew us here?” (expressions of motivation), (2) “Who we are and how we do what we do” (expressions of engagement), (3) challenges (embracing change), and (4) development (expressions of transformation). This study contributes new knowledge by describing the culture of nursing and how nurses enact their care in a previously undescribed humanitarian context. Based on the analysis of findings, a professional practice model (PPM) named HHEALED was proposed. An in-depth application of the model was made to the specific organisational context framing the study. Recommendations arising from this study address nurses’ social and professional roles within humanitarian care that could further validate and strengthen policies and programs for the delivery of humanitarian health care for a mobile platform providing specialist surgical care.

Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine COVID-19 seminar series: COVID and surgical, anesthetic and obstetric care

On May 21, 2020, the Harvard Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) hosted a webinar as part of the Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine’s COVID-19 webinar series. The goal of PGSSC’s virtual webinar was to share the experiences of surgical, anesthesia, and obstetric (SAO) providers on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic, from both high-income countries (HICs), such as the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Providers shared not only their experiences delivering SAO care during this global pandemic, but also solutions and innovations they and their colleagues developed to address these new challenges. Additionally, the seminar explored the relationship between surgery and health system strengthening and pandemic preparedness, and outlined the way forward, including a roadmap for prioritization and investment in surgical system strengthening. Throughout the discussion, other themes emerged as well, such as the definition of elective surgery and its implications during a persistent global pandemic, the safe and ethical reintroduction of surgical services, and the social inequities exposed by the stress placed on health systems by COVID-19. These proceedings document the perspectives shared by participants through their invited lectures as well as through the panel discussion at the end of the seminar.

Letter: Global Neurosurgery Scope and Practice

To the Editor:

Russell Andrews, the global neurosurgery section editor at the World Neurosurgery journal, argues that it is difficult to define global neurosurgery because of the breadth of articles labeling themselves as global neurosurgery.1 There are numerous definitions of global neurosurgery, but we will discuss 2 commonly used definitions. First, the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies’ Global Neurosurgery Committee (WFNS GNC) defines global neurosurgery as, “The clinical and public health practice of neurosurgery with the primary purpose of ensuring timely, safe, and affordable neurosurgical care to all who need it.”2 Next, we can define global neurosurgery based on the definition of global surgery by Bath et al,3 that is, “the enterprise of providing improved and equitable [neuro]surgical care to the world’s population, with its core tenets as the issues of need, access, and quality.”3 The 2 definitions have more in common than they differ from one another, and the differences alone cannot explain the confusion around what is and is not global neurosurgery.

Multiple factors are responsible for the confusion around the definition and scope of global neurosurgery. A chasm separates the academic global neurosurgery community from neurosurgeons and neurosurgical organizations working toward increasing accessibility in low-resource settings.1,4 Academic neurosurgery is responsible for the 2 definitions mentioned above (de facto definitions), whereas many within the neurosurgical community are familiar with a de jure definition. Historically, global neurosurgery has been viewed as high-income country (HIC) neurosurgeons and neurosurgical organizations delivering care or investing in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).1 This narrative is responsible for the misconception that global neurosurgery is humanitarian or international neurosurgery. While all humanitarian and international neurosurgery falls in the realm of global neurosurgery, all global neurosurgery is not international or humanitarian. This de jure definition puts LMICs on the receiving end of partnerships and fails to acknowledge that global neurosurgery initiatives equally benefit HIC institutions and neurosurgeons. For example, neurosurgery has benefited greatly from reverse innovation, including the development of endoscopic third ventriculostomy with choroid plexus cauterization in Uganda.5

Moreover, the de jure definition assumes that lack of access to safe, timely, and affordable neurosurgical care is only true in LMICs. We know from recent studies that this is not true—for example, Rahman et al6 reported significant disparities in the geographic distribution of US neurosurgeons. Also, in a review of out-of-pocket expenditures for cranial surgery at a US center, Yoon et al7 reported an increase in the proportion of patients facing financial risk.

To clarify the misconception, we must return to the WFNS GNC’s definition. This definition does not differentiate between HICs and LMICs, and it does not focus on times of humanitarian crisis. As a result, we can say that global neurosurgery is not defined by the country’s income category but rather by the existence of barriers to seeking, reaching, and receiving safe, timely, and affordable neurosurgical care. To reach this goal, global neurosurgery borrows from health systems research to devise holistic solutions that will increase access to care.2–4

Early global neurosurgeons learned that staff education and purchase of equipment and consumables without buy-in from local leadership or investments in information management were unsustainable and inefficient.3,4 As a result, global neurosurgeons have adopted a systems-engineering mindset to identify problems and map out solutions.4 They analyze interactions between the health system’s components (workforce, service delivery, infrastructure, information management, funding, and governance). They design interventions in collaboration with stakeholders because they understand that health systems are complex and have many essential parts.8 No part can independently provide the output of the whole, and the health system’s performance is not always improved if its parts are improved independently.8 Similarly, a sports team will not be improved simply because the best players at each position have been recruited. Team managers must factor in the relationships between players, players’ strengths and weaknesses, and team culture during recruitment.

Association between government policy and delays in emergent and elective surgical care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil: a modeling study

The impact of public health policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on access to surgical care is poorly defined. We aim to quantify the surgical backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Brazilian public health system and determine the relationship between state-level policy response and the degree of state-level delays in public surgical care.

Monthly estimates of surgical procedures performed per state from January 2016 to December 2020 were obtained from Brazil’s Unified Health System Informatics Department. Forecasting models using historical surgical volume data before March 2020 (first reported COVID-19 case) were constructed to predict expected monthly operations from March through December 2020. Total, emergency, and elective surgical monthly backlogs were calculated by comparing reported volume to forecasted volume. Linear mixed effects models were used to model the relationship between public surgical delivery and two measures of health policy response: the COVID-19 Stringency Index (SI) and the Containment & Health Index (CHI) by state.

Between March and December 2020, the total surgical backlog included 1,119,433 (95% Confidence Interval 762,663–1,523,995) total operations, 161,321 (95%CI 37,468–395,478) emergent operations, and 928,758 (95%CI 675,202–1,208,769) elective operations. Increased SI and CHI scores were associated with reductions in emergent surgical delays but increases in elective surgical backlogs. The maximum government stringency (score = 100) reduced emergency delays to nearly zero but tripled the elective surgical backlog.

Strong health policy efforts to contain COVID-19 ensure minimal reductions in delivery of emergent surgery, but dramatically increase elective backlogs. Additional coordinated government efforts will be necessary to specifically address the increased elective backlogs that accompany stringent responses.

Surgical Management and Outcomes of Wilms Tumor in Rwanda: A Retrospective Study of Patients Operated on at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali-Rwanda

BACKGROUND: Wilms tumor is the most common renal tumor in children and accounts for 6-8% of all childhood malignancies and has a variable survival rate worldwide. The aim of this study was to describe the surgical management and outcomes of care for Wilms tumor patients operated at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK).
METHODS: This is a retrospective chart review conducted at CHUK in Rwanda. It includes all children who had a confirmed Wilms tumor diagnosis operated from July 2012 to June 2016. Patient’s demographics, staging, surgical management, and outcomes were analyzed.
RESULTS: A total of 58 patients diagnosed with Wilms tumor were identified. 52.6% were female. The median age was four years, interquartile range (IQR): 1-10 years. The majority of the children were stage II (39.7%) and the minority being stage V (5.2%). Treatment offered was in accordance with the Societe Internationale d’ Oncologie Pediatrique (SIOP) protocol; 91.2% of patients received four weeks of preoperative chemotherapy and a median of 15 weeks postoperative chemotherapy (IQR: 8,26). The resection rate was 100% for those with unilateral tumors. The spillage rate was 15.8%. At the time of the study, the mortality rate was 19.3%, recurrence was 7%, and 12.3% were lost to follow-up.
CONCLUSION: The introduction of a single national protocol for treating Wilms tumor in Rwanda with a dedicated management team, including the surgical and pediatric oncology services, has led to early outcomes approaching the ones in high-income countries, but efforts also need to include earlier detection of this tumor.

Healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial use in surgical wards of a large urban central hospital in Blantyre, Malawi: a point prevalence survey

There are limited data on healthcare-associated infections (HAI) from African countries like Malawi.

We undertook a point prevalence survey of HAI and antimicrobial use in the surgery department of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Malawi and ascertained the associated risk factors for HAI.

A cross-sectional point prevalence survey (PPS) was carried out in the surgery department of QECH. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control PPS protocol version 5.3 was adapted to our setting and used as a data collection tool.

105 patients were included in the analysis; median age was 34 (IQR: 24–47) years and 55.2% patients were male. Point prevalence of HAI was 11.4% (n=12/105) (95% CI: 6.0%–19.1%), including four surgical site infections, four urinary tract infections, three bloodstream infections and one bone/joint infection. We identified the following risk factors for HAI; length-of-stay between 8 and 14 days (OR=14.4, 95% CI: 1.65–124.7, p=0.0143), presence of indwelling urinary catheter (OR=8.3, 95% CI: 2.24–30.70, p=0.003) and history of surgery in the past 30 days (OR=5.11, 95% CI: 1.46–17.83, p=0.011). 29/105 patients (27.6%) were prescribed antimicrobials, most commonly the 3rd-generation cephalosporin, ceftriaxone (n=15).

The prevalence rates of HAI and antimicrobial use in surgery wards at QECH are relatively high. Hospital infection prevention and control measures need to be strengthened to reduce the burden of HAI at QECH.

Fixation of intertrochanteric femur fractures using the SIGN intramedullary nail augmented by a lateral plate in a resource-limited setting without intraoperative fluoroscopy: assessment of functional outcomes at one-year follow-up at Juba Teaching Hospital

The incidence of hip fracture is high and increasing globally due to an aging population. Morbidity and mortality from these injuries are high at baseline and worse without prompt surgical treatment to facilitate early mobilization. Due to resource constraints, surgeons in low-income countries often must adapt available materials to meet these surgical needs. The objective of this study is to assess functional outcomes after surgical fixation of intertrochanteric femur fractures with the Surgical Implant Generation Network (SIGN) intramedullary nail augmented by a lateral SIGN plate.

Prospective case series

Juba Teaching Hospital, Tertiary Referral Hospital for South Sudan

Adult patients with intertrochanteric hip fractures

SIGN nail augmented by a lateral plate

Main Outcome Measurements:
Primary outcome was hip function as measured by a modified Harris Hip Score (mHHS) at 1-year after surgery. Secondary endpoints were the occurrence of reoperation or infection at 1-year after surgery.

Thirty patients were included, 16 (53%) men and 14 (47%) women, with a mean age of 62 years. Fractures were classified as AO/OTA Type 31A1 in 12 (40%) patients, 31A2 in 15 (50%) patients, and 31A3 in 3 (10%) patients. Mean mHHS at 1-year was 75.10 ± 21.2 with 76% categorized as excellent or good scores. There was 1 (3%) infection and 2 (7%) reoperations.

The SIGN nail augmented by a lateral plate achieved good or excellent hip function in the majority of patients with intertrochanteric hip fractures. This may be a suitable alternative to conventional implants for hip fracture patients in low-resource settings to allow mobilization.

Community engagement and involvement in Ghana: conversations with community stakeholders to inform surgical research

Background: Involving patients and communities with health research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) contributes to increasing the likelihood that research is relevant in local context and caters to the needs of the population, including vulnerable and marginalised groups. When done right, it can also support empowerment of wider communities in taking ownership of their own health, lead to increased access and uptake of health services and generally improve the wellbeing of individuals. However, the evidence base of how to undertake successful community engagement and involvement (CEI) activities in LMICs is sparse. This paper aims to add to the available literature and describes how the Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery’s (GSU) team in Ghana worked collaboratively with the Unit’s team in the UK and a UK-based Public Advisory Group to involve community stakeholders in rural Ghana with surgical research. The aim was to explore ways of reaching out to patients and community leaders in rural Ghana to have conversations that inform the relevance, acceptability, and feasibility of a clinical trial, called TIGER.
Methods: As this kind of larger scale involvement of community stakeholders with research was a novel way of working for the team in Ghana, a reflective approach was taken to outline step-by-step how the GSU team planned and undertook these involvement activities with 31 hernia patients, two Chiefs (community leaders), a community finance officer and a local politician in various locations in Ghana. The barriers that were experienced and the benefits of involving community stakeholders are highlighted with the aim to add to the evidence base of CEI in LMICs.
Results: GSU members from the UK and Ghana planned and organised successful involvement activities that focused on establishing the best way to talk to patients and other community stakeholders about their experiences of living with hernias and undergoing hernia repairs, and their perceptions of the impact of hernias on the wider community. The Ghanaian team suggested 1:1 conversations in easily accessible locations for rural patient contributors, creating a welcoming environment and addressing contributors in their local dialects. A UK-based Public Advisory Group helped in the initial stages of planning these conversations by highlighting potential barriers when approaching rural communities and advising on how to phrase questions around personal experiences. Conversations mainly focused on understanding the needs of hernia patients in rural Ghana to then incorporate these in the design of the TIGER trial to ensure its relevance, acceptability and feasibility. When talking to patient contributors, the GSU teams found that they were more likely to open up when they knew members of the team and the opportunity to speak to local leaders only arose because of the Ghanaian team members being well-respected amongst communities. The experiences of the patient and community contributors led to changes in the study protocol, such as including women in the patient cohort for the trial, and allowed the GSU teams to confirm the relevance and acceptability of this trial. These conversations also taught the team a lot about perceptions of health in rural communities, allowed the Ghanaian team to establish relationships with community leaders that can be utilised when future studies need input from the public, and has changed the minds of the Ghanaian research team about the importance of involving patients with research.
Conclusion: This paper contributes to the evidence base on successful CEI activities in LMICs by providing an example of how CEI can be planned and organised, and the benefits this provides. The conversations the teams had with patient contributors in Ghana are an example of successful patient consultations. Even though there are certain limitations to the extent of these involvement activities, a solid foundation has been built for researchers and community stakeholders to establish relationships for ongoing involvement.