A cross-sectional survey investigating the impact of COVID-19 on surgery training at teaching hospitals accredited by the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa
Background: Globally, training programs have adopted several strategies in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, including re-organizing the provision of care and safeguarding the wellbeing of trainees. This study aimed to describe the effects of COVID-19 on surgical training programs in Africa.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey through online questionnaires distributed via email to all College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) trainees and faculty. Input regarding the experience with the COVID-19 pandemic was sought including the participant’s perception of personal protective equipment (PPE), organizational changes impacting training, use of e-Learning platforms, reactions to the pandemic, and measures taken at the institution and district to combat COVID-19. Descriptive statistics were utilized along with comparisons between faculty and trainee experience. A P value ≤0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results: 274 participants completed the survey, including 44 faculty members (18%). 71% of respondents believed they had been supplied with enough information regarding COVID-19 and the relevant PPEs. The reported PPEs that were the most supplied components were face masks (97%), gloves (96%) and body gowns (72%). 86% of the respondents had learning re-organized at their centres due to the pandemic. 42 participants (17%) reported an exposure to COVID-19. Two (0.8%) of the respondents reported COVID-19 infection but were asymptomatic. Most of the respondents (49%) used the existing COSECSA e-Learning platform. 71% of the participants suggested that COSECSA should propose a different examination format for the current year.
Conclusions: COSECSA training centres have adopted measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, the pandemic has the potential to adversely affect staff health and outcomes for patients. The centers should increase access to information on COVID-19 and enhance infection protection practices. Likewise, COSECSA should enrich the online educational platforms and consider alternative examination formats.