Medics, policy makers convene over safe surgery plan

The plan aims at improved access to quality, timely and affordable service delivery as well as coordination of existing efforts to avoid overlap.

Five teams will be formed to discuss terms of reference around workforce, service delivery, infrastructure, information management and financing as well as governance, according to General Electric Foundation (GE Foundation) Director of Global Health Asha Verghese.

The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children in collaboration with Safe Surgery 2020 officially launched the NSOAP drafting process yesterday through working groups. It is anticipated that the plan will be completed and launched for implementation by the end of this year.

Safe Surgery 2020 is a partnership of governments, implementers, researchers and advocates seeking to improve safety, affordability and accessibility of surgical, anaesthesia and obstetric care.

Safe Surgery 2020 financially supported by GE Foundation, is hosted by Dalberg Global Development Partners and implemented by the Harvard Programme in Global Surgery and Social Change, Jhpiego, Assist International, and the Global Alliance for Surgical, Obstetric, Trauma and Anesthesia Care (The G4 Alliance).

“This collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Safe Surgery 2020 demonstrates both the public and private sectors’ continuing roles in bringing safe, accessible and affordable surgeries to the citizens of Tanzania,’’ said Ms Verghese. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the ministry, Professor Mohammed Bakari officially launched the planning process.

The need for NSOAP has been informed by various studies highlighting an urgent need to prioritise safe surgery in Tanzania. A study carried out using the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tool for Situational Analysis to Assess Emergency and Essential Surgical Care in 2012 found that the average travel distance for patients receiving surgical care was 119 kilometres in Tanzania.

The Lancet Commission on global surgery recommends that by the year 2030, 80 per cent of the population should have access to emergency surgical care within two hours. However, the current proportion of Tanzania’s population that cannot access surgery within two hours is unknown.

The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery estimates that at least 20- 40 surgical specialists are needed per 100,000 population. Tanzania’s density of specialist surgical workforce is 0.31 physician surgeons, obstetricians and anaesthesiologists per 100,000 population.

Although the rural population accounts for over 70 per cent of the population in Tanzania, many hospitals across the country have no permanent surgical or medical specialist, anaesthesiologist, and healthcare workers with formal specialty training in emergency or critical care.

In his opening remarks, Prof Bakari said the plan that practitioners, implementers and policymakers will draft has to offer solutions to the current state of the surgical system in the country, identifying the necessary developments for a functional surgical system as well as identifying the priorities in the coming years.

“Our country is still relatively poor, therefore the coming plan should be realistic depending on the state and policies of the country and it should ultimately be sustainable,’’ he said.

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