Universal Access to Surgical Care and Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case for Surgical Systems Research

National level experiences, lessons learnt from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era coupled with the academic evidence and proposals generated by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery (LCoGS) together with the economic arguments and recommendations from the World Bank Group’s “Essential Surgery” Disease Control Priorities (DCP3) publication, provided the impetus for political commitments to improve surgical care capacity at the primary level of the healthcare system in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as part of their drive towards universal health coverage (UHC) in the form of World Health Organization (WHO) Resolution A68.15.

This global commitment from governments must be followed up with development of a Global Action Plan and a global coordination mechanism supported by regional implementation frameworks on the part of the WHO in order for the organisation to better coordinate all stakeholders and sustain the technical support needed to develop and implement national surgical health policy in the form of National Surgical Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plans (NSOAPs). As expounded by Gajewski et al, data and research output on surgical care is essential to informing policy development and programme implementation. This area still remains a challenge in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) but it is envisaged that countries will include this key component in their ongoing national surgical healthcare policy development and programme implementation. In the Zambian case study, research in the area of Global Surgery investment-the surgical workforce scale-up is used to demonstrate the important role of implementation research in the development and implementation of the Zambian NSOAP as well as the need for international collaborations to this end. Scale-up reviews informed by implementation research to evaluate progress on the commitments contained in Resolution A68.15 and Decision A70.22 are essential to sustain the momentum and to help maintain focus on the gaps in all countries. There are opportunities for non-state actors especially local sub-regional academic institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector to play a key role in surgical healthcare policy development and implementation research. Collection of and better information management of standardised surgical care indicators is essential for such research, for bi-annual WHO progress reporting and for demonstration of impact to justify and encourage further investments in surgical care.

Rural and urban differences in treatment status among children with surgical conditions in Uganda.

In low and middle-income countries, approximately 85% of children have a surgically treatable condition before the age of 15. Within these countries, the burden of pediatric surgical conditions falls heaviest on those in rural areas. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the relationship between rurality, surgical condition and treatment status among a cohort of Ugandan children.

We identified 2176 children from 2315 households throughout Uganda using the Surgeons OverSeas Assessment of Surgical Need (SOSAS) survey. Children were randomly selected and were included in the study if they were 18 years of age or younger and had a surgical condition. Location of residence, surgical condition, and treatment status was compared among children.

Of the 305 children identified with surgical conditions, 81.9% lived in rural areas. The most prevalent causes of surgical conditions reported among rural and urban children were masses (24.0% and 25.5%, respectively), followed by wounds due to injury (19.6% and 16.4%, respectively). Among children with untreated surgical conditions, 79.1% reside in rural areas while 20.9% reside in urban areas. Among children with untreated surgical conditions, the leading reason for not seeking surgical care among children living in both rural and urban areas was a lack of money (40.6% and 31.4%, respectively), and the leading reason for not receiving care in both rural and urban settings was a lack of money (48.0% and 42.8%, respectively).

Our data suggest that over half of the children with a surgical condition surveyed are not receiving surgical care and a large majority of children with surgical needs were living in rural areas. Future interventions aimed at increasing surgical access in rural areas in low-income countries are needed.

Severe maternal outcomes in eastern Ethiopia: Application of the adapted maternal near miss tool.

With the reduction of maternal mortality, maternal near miss (MNM) has been used as a complementary indicator of maternal health. The objective of this study was to assess the frequency of MNM in eastern Ethiopia using an adapted sub-Saharan Africa MNM tool and compare its applicability with the original WHO MNM tool.

We applied the sub-Saharan Africa and WHO MNM criteria to 1054 women admitted with potentially life-threatening conditions (including 28 deaths) in Hiwot Fana Specialized University Hospital and Jugel Hospital between January 2016 and April 2017. Discharge records were examined to identify deaths or women who developed MNM according to the sub-Saharan or WHO criteria. We calculated and compared MNM and severe maternal outcome ratios. Mortality index (ratio of maternal deaths to SMO) was calculated as indicator of quality of care.

The sub-Saharan Africa criteria identified 594 cases of MNM and all the 28 deaths while the WHO criteria identified 128 cases of MNM and 26 deaths. There were 7404 livebirths during the same period. This gives MNM ratios of 80 versus 17 per 1000 live births for the adapted and original WHO criteria. Mortality index was 4.5% and 16.9% in the adapted and WHO criteria respectively. The major difference between the two criteria can be attributed to eclampsia, sepsis and differences in the threshold for transfusion of blood.

The sub-Saharan Africa criteria identified all the MNM cases identified by the WHO criteria and all the maternal deaths. Applying the WHO criteria alone will cause under reporting of MNM cases (including maternal deaths) in this low-resource setting. The mortality index of 4.5% among women who fulfilled the adapted MNM criteria justifies labeling these women as having ‘life-threatening conditions’.

Provision of post-crash first aid by traffic police in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: a cross-sectional survey.

The availability of prehospital trauma care is an important means of reducing serious injuries and fatalities associated with road traffic injuries (RTIs). Lay responders such as traffic police play an important role in the provision of prehospital trauma care to RTI victims, especially where there is no established prehospital care system. Therefore, the objective of the present study was to investigate knowledge, self-reported practice, and attitudes toward post-crash first aid among traffic police officers in Tanzania.

A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania between July-September 2017 to investigate knowledge, self-reported practice and attitude among traffic police officers during provision of post-crash care. We used simple random technique to recruit 340 traffic police officers, self -administered questionnaires were used to collect data. The researchers used descriptive statistics and Pearson’s chi-square tests to analyze the data.

A total of 340 traffic police officers were surveyed. Nearly two thirds (65.3%) reported having had post-crash first aid on-the job training; a slightly larger proportion (70.9%) reported that they had cared for RTI victims in the previous year. The survey responses showed that, generally, traffic police officers’ level of knowledge about post-crash first aid to RTI victims was low-about 3% of the surveyed officers possessed knowledge at a level considered good. Also, there was a statistically significant correlation between higher educational attainment and greater knowledgeability (p = 0.015). Almost all of the officers (96%) had a positive attitude toward providing post-crash first aid to RTI victims.

Improved training of Tanzania traffic police officers, by means of an updated post-crash first aid curriculum and updated resources is recommended. Also, user-friendly post-crash first aid leaflets should be provided to traffic police for their reference.

The lucky ones get cured: Health care seeking among women with pelvic organ prolapse in Amhara Region, Ethiopia.

The majority of women suffering from maternal morbidities live in resource-constrained settings with diverse barriers preventing access to quality biomedical health care services. This study aims to highlight the dynamics between the public health system and alternative healing through an exploration of the experiences of health care seeking among women living with severe symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse in an impoverished setting.

The data were collected through ethnographic fieldwork at the hospital and community levels in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The fieldwork included participant observation, 42 semi-structured interviews and two focus group discussions over a period of one year. A group of 24 women with severe symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse served as the study’s main informants. Other central groups of informants included health care providers, local healers and actors from the health authorities and non-governmental organisations.

Three case stories were chosen to illustrate the key findings related to health care seeking among the informants. The women strove to find remedies for their aggravating ailment, and many navigated between and combined various available healing options both within and beyond the health care sector. Their choices were strongly influenced by poverty, by lack of knowledge about the condition, by their religious and spiritual beliefs and by the shame and embarrassment related to the condition. An ongoing health campaign in the study area providing free surgical treatment for pelvic organ prolapse enabled a study of the experiences related to the introduction of free health services targeting maternal morbidity.

This study highlights how structural barriers prevent women living in a resource-constrained setting from receiving health care for a highly prevalent and readily treatable maternal morbidity such as pelvic organ prolapse. Our results illustrate that the provision of free quality services may dramatically alter both health-and illness-related perceptions and conduct in an extremely vulnerable population.

Rosai‐Dorfman disease in Malawi

Rosai‐Dorfman Disease (RDD) is a rare lymphoproliferative disease with limited cases reported in sub‐Saharan Africa, potentially due to a lack of pathological services throughout the region. RDD diagnosis can be difficult, especially in resource‐limited setting, as symptoms can be nearly identical to more common causes of lymphadenopathy.

The role of diaspora and non-governmental organization in helping Sudanese children with congenital heart diseases: 6 years’ paediatric cardiac surgery camps experience

Background: Sudan one of the largest countries in Africa. In recent survey by Sudan Ministry of Health, congenital heart disease (CHD) was found to be one of the top eight diseases that lead to death of children in Sudan. The cost of surgical operation, follow up and diagnosis are expensive and this may result some children present with complications. The aim of this study is to assess the role of diaspora and non-governmental organization (NGO) in helping Sudanese children with CHD.
Methods: We assess the 6 years’ experience in charitable initiative established by Sudanese consultant pediatric intensivist and cardiologist working in Doha, Qatar in partnership with NGO in Gulf countries and Sudan. Examples of these organizations were Patient Helping Fund (PHF) the largest medical charity in Sudan, Eid Althani charity association in Qatar with collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMH), Ministry of Health in Khartoum and Gazira states. We established the program of providing suitable care for in need children.
Result: A total of 104 out of the 222 complex defects were considered for surgery, 118 underwent cardiac catheter interventions. The 30-days post-operative mortality was 14/222 (6.3%). The most essential post-surgical complications were postpericardiotomy syndrome, bleeding, and sepsis. Malnutrition poor socioeconomic status is significant factors negatively impact the outcomes. All surviving patients (n=208) remain in good clinical condition, and most are asymptomatic without any medications.
Conclusions: The collaboration of Sudanese pediatrician living outside Sudan with local and international NGOs can significantly improve child health in Sudan.

Pioneering endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography in a Sub Saharan African hospital: A case series

Background and study aims
Although endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) was introduced in Europe, Asia and America over four decades ago, East Africa and Africa as a whole has been slow in taking up this very important minimally invasive procedure for the management of various hepatopancreaticobiliary conditions. This has led to reliance on open surgery for even simple benign biliary strictures, stones and malignant causes of biliary and pancreatic duct obstruction that can be treated endoscopically without a need for a morbid open surgical intervention. In Uganda, ERCP was introduced in January 2017 after obtaining training and equipment support from Senior Experten Service (SES), German. We therefore report the first six cases of ERCP performed at our endoscopy unit.

Patients and methods
This is a case series report of six patients referred with yellowing of eyes and body itching as the main complaints. They predominantly had raised gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), total bilirubin and direct bilirubin. They also had different imaging investigations demonstrating hepatic ducts dilatation.

Four out of the six patients had complete post ERCP symptom resolution. One patient had partial symptom resolution and the other patient recovered after conversion to open surgery.

Collaborative skills transfer made ERCP feasible in our institute and this marked the start of this specialised service in Uganda.

The challenges and opportunities of global neurosurgery in East Africa: the Neurosurgery Education and Development model

The objective of this study was to describe the experience of a volunteering neurosurgeon during an 18-week stay at the Neurosurgery Education and Development (NED) Institute and to report the general situation regarding the development of neurosurgery in Zanzibar, identifying the challenges and opportunities and explaining the NED Foundation’s model for safe practice and sustainability.

The NED Foundation deployed the volunteer neurosurgeon coordinator (NC) for an 18-week stay at the NED Institute at the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, Stonetown, Zanzibar. The main roles of the NC were as follows: management of patients, reinforcement of weekly academic activities, coordination of international surgical camps, and identification of opportunities for improvement. The improvement opportunities were categorized as clinical, administrative, and sociocultural and were based on observations made by the NC as well as on interviews with local doctors, administrators, and government officials.

During the 18-week period, the NC visited 460 patients and performed 85 surgical procedures. Four surgical camps were coordinated on-site. Academic activities were conducted weekly. The most significant challenges encountered were an intense workload, deficient infrastructure, lack of self-confidence among local physicians, deficiencies in technical support and repairs of broken equipment, and lack of guidelines. Through a series of interviews, the sociocultural factors influencing the NED Foundation’s intervention were determined. Factors identified for success were the activity of neurosurgical societies in East Africa; structured pan-African neurosurgical training; the support of the Foundation for International Education in Neurological Surgery (FIENS) and the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA); motivated personnel; and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar’s willingness to collaborate with the NED Foundation.

International collaboration programs should balance local challenges and opportunities in order to effectively promote the development of neurosurgery in East Africa. Support and endorsement should be sought to harness shared resources and experience. Determining the caregiving and educational objectives within the logistic, administrative, social, and cultural framework of the target hospital is paramount to success.

Demand and capacity to integrate pelvic organ prolapse and genital fistula services in low-resource settings.

There is a need for expanded access to safe surgical care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as illustrated by the report of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Global Surgery. Packages of closely-related surgical procedures may create platforms of capacity that maximize impact in LMIC. Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and genital fistula care provide an example. Although POP affects many more women in LMICs than fistula, donor support for fistula treatment in LMICs has been underway for decades, whereas treatment for POP is usually limited to hysterectomy-based surgical treatment, occurring with little to no donor support. This capacity-building discrepancy has resulted in POP care that is often non-adherent to international standards and in non-integration of POP and fistula services, despite clear areas of similarity and overlap. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility and potential value of integrating POP services at fistula centers.

Fistula repair sites supported by the Fistula Care Plus project were surveyed on current demand for and capacity to provide POP, in addition to perceptions about integrating POP and fistula repair services.

Respondents from 26 hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia completed the survey. Most fistula centers (92%) reported demand for POP services, but many cannot meet this demand. Responses indicated a wide variation in assessment and grading practices for POP; approaches to lower urinary tract symptom evaluation; and surgical skills with regard to compartment-based POP, and urinary and rectal incontinence. Fistula surgeons identified integration synergies but also potential conflicts.

Integration of genital fistula and POP services may enhance the quality of POP care while increasing the sustainability of fistula care.