Quality of Surgery in Malawi: Comparison of Patient-Reported Outcomes After Hernia Surgery Between District and Central Hospitals
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District hospitals in Africa could meet the essential surgical needs of rural populations. However, evidence on outcomes is needed to justify investment in this option, given that surgery at district hospitals in some African countries is usually undertaken by non-physician clinicians.
Baseline and 2–3-month follow-up measurements were undertaken on 98 patients who had undergone hernia repairs at four district and two central hospitals in Malawi, using a modified quality-of-life tool.
There was no significant difference in outcomes between district and central hospital cases, where a good outcome was defined as no more than one severe and three mild symptoms. Outcomes were marginally inferior at district hospitals (OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.63–1.0). However, in the 46 cases that underwent elective surgery at district hospitals, baseline scores for severe symptoms were worse (mean = 3.5) than in the 23 elective central hospital cases (mean = 2.5), p = 0.004. Also, the mean change (improvement) in symptom score was higher in district versus central hospital cases (3.9 vs. 2.3).
The study results support the case for investing in district hospital surgery in sub-Saharan Africa to increase access to essential surgical care for rural populations. This could free up specialists to undertake more complex and referred cases and reduce emergency presentations. It will require investments in training and resources for district hospitals and in supervision from higher levels.
Funding was provided by Seventh Framework Programme (Ref. FP7-AFRICA-2010, Grant Agreement No. 266417).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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