Strengthening Surgical and Anaesthetic Services at District Level in the African Region: Issues, Challenges and Proposed Actions

  • J. B. Ndihokubwayo
  • S. O. Coulibali
  • M. N. Cherian
  • M. M. Ekeke
  • J. Nabyonga
  • L. Musango
  • T. Nkurunziza
  • C. King
  • I. Premaratne
  • W. D. Johnson


Health care delivery systems are organized at several levels with the district hospital serving as the first referral for comprehensive care in the majority of countries worldwide. The provision of comprehensive surgical services requires several inputs and tools to be in place, among which are an adequately trained surgical, anaesthesia and obstetric healthcare workforce, infrastructure and functioning equipment, and essential medicines and supplies. These, however, are not in place in the majority of commonly received surgical cases, such as trauma, obstetric, abdominal and orthopedic emergencies, thus limiting the capacity of district hospitals to address them. Global and regional public health initiatives have traditionally neglected the necessity of the provision of surgical services despite the fact that these constitute an essential component of comprehensive primary healthcare (PHC)1. In fact, because surgery so frequently cannot be safely postponed, this deficiency prevents the transfer of patients to a secondary or tertiarylevel hospital where further care can be provided.2


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