Research

District hospital surgical capacity in Western Cape Province, South Africa: A cross-sectional survey

P Naidu, K M Chu

Abstract


Background. The role of the district hospital (DH) in surgical care has been undervalued. However, decentralised surgical services at DHs have been identified as a key component of universal health coverage. Surgical capacity at DHs in Western Cape (WC) Province, South Africa, has not been described.

Objectives. To describe DH surgical capacity in WC and identify barriers to scaling up surgical capacity at these facilities.

Methods. This was a cross-sectional survey of 33 DHs using the World Health Organization surgical situational analysis tool administered to hospital staff from June to December 2019. The survey addressed the following domains: general services and financing; service delivery and surgical volume; surgical workforce; hospital and operating theatre (OT) infrastructure, equipment and medication; and barriers to scaling up surgical care.

Results. Seven of 33 DHs (21%) did not have a functional OT. Of the 28 World Bank DH procedures, small WC DHs performed up to 22 (79%) and medium/large DHs up to 26 (93%). Only medium/large DHs performed all three bellwether procedures. Five DHs (15%) had a full-time surgeon, anaesthetist or obstetrician (SAO). Of DHs without any SAO specialists, 14 (50%) had family physicians (FPs). These DHs performed more operative procedures than those without FPs (p=0.005). Lack of finances dedicated for surgical care and lack of surgical providers were the most reported barriers to providing and expanding surgical services.

Conclusions. WC DH surgical capacity varied by hospital size. However, FPs could play an essential role in surgery at DHs with appropriate training, oversight and support from SAO specialists. Strategies to scale up surgical capacity include dedicated financial and human resources.


Authors' affiliations

P Naidu, Centre for Global Surgery, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

K M Chu, Centre for Global Surgery, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

Surgical capacity; District hospital; Essential and emergency surgical care; Surgical volume; Decentralised care

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2021;111(4):343-349. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i4.15281

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-03-31
Date published: 2021-03-31

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