[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Surgical conditions contribute significantly to the disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet there is an apparent neglect of surgical care as a public health intervention to counter this burden. There is increasing enthusiasm to reverse this trend, by promoting essential surgical services at the district hospital, the first point of contact for critical conditions for rural populations. This study investigated the scope of surgery conducted at district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries.
In a retrospective descriptive study, field data were collected from eight district hospitals in Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique using a standardized form and interviews with key informants. Overall, the scope of surgical procedures performed was narrow and included mainly essential and life-saving emergency procedures. Surgical output varied across hospitals from five to 45 major procedures/10,000 people. Obstetric operations were most common and included cesarean sections and uterine evacuations. Hernia repair and wound care accounted for 65% of general surgical procedures. The number of beds in the studied hospitals ranged from 0.2 to 1.0 per 1,000 population.
The findings of this study clearly indicate low levels of surgical care provision at the district level for the hospitals studied. The extent to which this translates into unmet need remains unknown although the very low proportions of live births in the catchment areas of these eight hospitals that are born by cesarean section suggest that there is a substantial unmet need for surgical services. The district hospital in the current health system in sub-Saharan Africa lends itself to feasible integration of essential surgery into the spectrum of comprehensive primary care services. It is therefore critical that the surgical capacity of the district hospital is significantly expanded; this will result in sustainable preventable morbidity and mortality. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
PLoS Medicine 01/2010; 7(3):e1000243. · 15.25 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is a growing recognition that the provision of surgical services in low-income countries is inadequate to the need. While constrained health budgets and health worker shortages have been blamed for the low rates of surgery, there has been little empirical data on the providers of surgery and cost of surgical services in Africa. This study described the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimated the resources dedicated to surgery at district hospitals in three African countries.
We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional survey of data from eight district hospitals in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. There were no specialist surgeons or anesthetists in any of the hospitals. Most of the health workers were nurses (77.5%), followed by mid-level providers (MLPs) not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to perform surgical procedures (3.8%). There were one to six medical doctors per hospital (4.2% of clinical staff). Most major surgical procedures were performed by doctors (54.6%), however over one-third (35.9%) were done by MLPs. Anesthesia was mainly provided by nurses (39.4%). Most of the hospital expenditure was related to staffing. Of the total operating costs, only 7% to 14% was allocated to surgical care, the majority of which was for obstetric surgery. These costs represent a per capita expenditure on surgery ranging from US$0.05 to US$0.14 between the eight hospitals.
African countries have adopted different policies to ensure the provision of surgical care in their respective district hospitals. Overall, the surgical output per capita was very low, reflecting low staffing ratios and limited expenditures for surgery. We found that most surgical and anesthesia services in the three countries in the study were provided by generalist doctors, MLPs, and nurses. Although more information is needed to estimate unmet need for surgery, increasing the funds allocated to surgery, and, in the absence of trained doctors and surgeons, formalizing the training of MLPs appears to be a pragmatic and cost-effective way to make basic surgical services available in underserved areas. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
PLoS Medicine 01/2010; 7(3):e1000242. · 15.25 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this Policy Forum, the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group, which was formed to advocate for increased access to surgery in Africa, recommends four priority areas for national and international agencies to target in order to address the surgical burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa.
PLoS Medicine 12/2009; 6(12):e1000200. · 15.25 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nonphysicians in Mozambique have been performing major surgery for more than 20 years, with documented outcomes equivalent to those of specialists. The purpose of this study was to make an inventory of all government hospitals so as to document obstetric surgery performed by 'técnicos de cirurgia' (TCs) and to elucidate their retention at district level.
Cross-sectional study of surgical procedures during 2002; longitudinal study of TCs and doctors graduating in 1987, 1988 and 1996.
All 34 hospitals with an operating theatre in Mozambique.
Records of 12,178 major surgical obstetric operations were examined, and 59 medical officers and 34 TCs were interviewed.
Analysis of all surgical registers during 2002 in all government rural, provincial, general and central hospitals in Mozambique. TCs and doctors who had graduated in the specified years were traced and interviewed; health ministry records were reviewed to confirm assignments.
Proportion of major obstetric surgeries performed by TCs. Proportion of TCs and medical doctors still at rural/district level at 7 years after graduation.
Major obstetric surgery is conducted by nonphysicians in 57% of the 12,178 operations scrutinised. In district hospitals, they conducted 92% of 3246 operations. Retention of TCs and medical doctors at district hospital level differed markedly: after 7 years, 88% of the TCs remained in post compared with none of the medical doctors.
Nonphysicians, trained in surgery, do most of the emergency obstetric surgery in Mozambique, and almost all of that performed in district hospitals. Nonphysicians, compared with physicians, stay longer in rural areas. After 7 years, around 90% of nonphysicians are still working in district hospitals, while almost no physicians remain there.
BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 01/2008; 114(12):1530-3. · 3.76 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To compare the training and deployment costs and surgical productivity of surgically trained assistant medical officers (técnicos de cirurgia) and specialist physicians (surgeons and obstetrician/gynaecologists) in Mozambique in order to inform health human resource planning in a developing country with low availability of obstetric care and severe physician shortages. Técnicos de cirurgia have been previously shown to have quality of care outcomes comparable to physicians.
Economic evaluation of costs and productivity of surgically trained assistant medical officers and specialist physicians.
Hospitals and health science training institutions in Mozambique.
Surgically trained assistants, medical officers, surgeons and obstetrician/gynaecologists in Mozambique.
The costs of training and deploying the two cadres of health workers were derived from a review of budgets, annual expenditure reports, enrolment registers, and accounting statements from training institutions and interviews with directors and administrators. Productivity estimates were based on a hospital survey of physicians and técnicos de cirurgia.
Cost per major obstetric surgical procedure over 30 years in 2006 US dollars.
The 30-year cost per major obstetric surgery was $38.9 for técnicos de cirurgia and $144.1 for surgeons and obstetrician/gynaecologists. Doubling the salaries of técnicos de cirurgia resulted in a smaller but still substantial difference in cost per surgery between the groups ($60.3 versus $144.1 per procedure). One-way sensitivity analysis to test the impact of varying other inputs did not substantially change the magnitude of the cost advantage of técnicos de cirurgia.
Training more mid-level health workers in surgery can be part of the response to the health worker shortage, which today threatens the achievement of the health Millennium Development Goals in developing countries.
BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 11/2007; 114(10):1253-60. · 3.76 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study examines the opinions of health professionals about the capacity and performance of the 'técnico de cirurgia', a surgically trained assistant medical officer in the Mozambican health system. Particular attention is paid to the views of medical doctors and maternal and child health nurses.
The results are derived from a qualitative study using both semi-structured interviews and group discussions. Health professionals (n=71) were interviewed at both facility and system level. Eight group discussion sessions of about two hours each were run in eight rural hospitals with a total of 48 participants. Medical doctors and district officers were excluded from group discussion sessions due to their hierarchical position which could have prevented other workers from expressing opinions freely.
Health workers at all levels voiced satisfaction with the work of the "técnicos de cirurgia". They stressed the life-saving skills of these cadres, the advantages resulting from a reduction in the need for patient referrals and the considerable cost reduction for patients and their families. Important problems in the professional status and remuneration of "técnicos de cirurgia" were identified.
This study, the first one to scrutinize the judgements and attitudes of health workers towards the "técnico de cirurgia", showed that, despite some shortcomings, this cadre is highly appreciated and that the health delivery system does not recognize and motivate them enough. The findings of this study can be used to direct efforts to improve motivation of health workers in general and of técnicos de cirurgia in particular.
Human Resources for Health 02/2007; 5:27. · 1.83 Impact Factor