Research

Bellwether operations in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, are performed at regional and tertiary rather than district hospitals

A Tefera, E Lutge, D L Clarke

Abstract


Background. Previous work from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, South Africa, has suggested that public sector district hospitals are not providing adequate access to surgical care in the form of bellwether operations (caesarean section (CS), open reduction of fractures (ORF) and laparotomy).

Objectives. To review the surgical output of regional and tertiary institutions, to quantify their contribution to providing bellwether procedure coverage for the province.

Methods. Data on bellwether operations conducted at all district, regional, tertiary and central hospitals in the public health sector of KZN for the period 1 July - 31 December 2015 were collected from operating theatre registers.

Results. Between 1 July and 31 December 2015, a total of 20 926 CSs, 3 947 laparotomies and 3 098 ORFs were performed in KZN provincial hospitals. This translates to a provincial rate for each bellwether procedure of 192/100 000 (CS), 36/100 000 (laparotomy) and 28/100 000 (ORF). The rate of  bellwether operations across the province during the study period was 256/100 000, with numbers as follows: CSs – 10 542 in district hospitals, 8 712 in regional hospitals, 1 538 in tertiary hospitals and 134 in the central hospital; laparotomies – 235 in district hospitals, 2 314 in regional hospitals, 1 259 in tertiary hospitals and 139 in the central hospital; and ORFs – 196 in district hospitals, 1 660 in regional hospitals, 1 201 in tertiary hospitals and 41 in the central hospital.

Conclusions. Regional and tertiary hospitals are performing the bulk of non-obstetric bellwether operations in KZN. This imbalance has major implications for planning future delivery of surgical care in the province.

 


Authors' affiliations

A Tefera, Epidemiology Unit, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

E Lutge, Epidemiology Unit, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; School of Nursing and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

D L Clarke, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; Department of Surgery, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

Global health; Access to surgical care; Bellwether operations

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(5):374-376. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i5.14218

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-04-29
Date published: 2020-04-29

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