Patient-Reported Barriers to Accessing Surgical Care in Northern Vanuatu
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The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery proposed that population access to essential surgical care within 2 h is a core indicator of health system preparedness. Little evidence exists to characterise access to surgical care for island nations, including Vanuatu, a lower middle-income country in the Western Pacific.
A descriptive, facility-based, survey of surgical inpatients was undertaken over a 6-month period at Northern Provincial Hospital (NPH), Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. This evaluated demographics, access to surgical care using the ‘three delays’ framework and clinical outcomes.
A total of 121 participants were surveyed (60% of all surgical admissions), of which 31% required emergency surgery. Only 20% of emergency surgical cases accessed care within 2 h. There were no emergency cases from Torba or Malekula. The first delay (delay in seeking care) had the biggest impact on timely access. There was a geographic gradient to access, gender preponderance (males), and a delay in seeking surgical care due to a preference for traditional healers.
There is urgent need to improve access to surgical care in Vanuatu, particularly for Torba and Malekula catchments. Demographic, geographic, sociocultural, and economic factors impact on timely access to surgical care within the northern regions of Vanuatu and support the notion that addressing access barriers is more complex than ensuring the availability of surgical resources. Future priorities should include efforts to reduce the first delay, address the role of traditional medicine, and review the geographic disparities in access.
Necessary travel costs, administration, and salary costs for investigators were met by the University of Auckland Department of Surgery.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
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