Mixed‐methods assessment of surgical capacity in two regions in Ethiopia. BJS 2019; 106: e81-e90.

Published: 8th January 2019

Authors: K. R. Iverson, K. Garringer, O. Ahearn, S. Alidina, I. Citron, S. Esseye et al.

Background

Surgery is among the most neglected parts of healthcare systems in low‐ and middle‐income countries. Ethiopia has launched a national strategic plan to address challenges in the surgical system. This study aimed to assess surgical capacity in two Ethiopian regions to inform priority areas for improvement.

Method

A mixed‐methods study was conducted using two tools adapted from the Lancet Commission's Surgical Assessment Tools: a quantitative Hospital Assessment Tool and a qualitative semistructured interview tool. Fifteen hospitals selected by the Federal Ministry of Health were surveyed in the Tigray and Amhara regions to assess the surgical system across five domains: service delivery, infrastructure, workforce, information management and financing.

Results

Service delivery was low across hospitals with a mean(s.d.) of 5(6) surgical cases per week and a narrow range of procedures performed. Hospitals reported varying availability of basic infrastructure, including constant availability of electricity (9 of 15) and running water (5 of 15). Unavailable or broken diagnostic equipment was also common. The majority of surgical and anaesthesia services were provided by non‐physician clinicians, with little continuing education available. All hospitals tracked patient‐level data regularly and eight of 15 hospitals reported surgical volume data during the assessment, but research activities were limited. Hospital financing specified for surgery was rare and the majority of patients must pay out of pocket for care.

Conclusion

Results from this study will inform programmes to simultaneously improve each of the health system domains in Ethiopia; this is required if better access to and quality of surgery, anaesthesia and obstetric services are to be achieved.

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