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Confl Health. 2011 Jul 15;5:12. doi: 10.1186/1752-1505-5-12.

Providing surgical care in Somalia: A model of task shifting.

Author information

  • 1Médecins sans Frontières, 49 Jorrisen St, Braamfontein 2017, Johannesburg, South Africa. kathryn_chu@yahoo.com.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Somalia is one of the most political unstable countries in the world. Ongoing insecurity has forced an inconsistent medical response by the international community, with little data collection. This paper describes the "remote" model of surgical care by Medecins Sans Frontieres, in Guri-El, Somalia. The challenges of providing the necessary prerequisites for safe surgery are discussed as well as the successes and limitations of task shifting in this resource-limited context.

METHODS:

In January 2006, MSF opened a project in Guri-El located between Mogadishu and Galcayo. The objectives were to reduce mortality due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth and from violent and non-violent trauma. At the start of the program, expatriate surgeons and anesthesiologists established safe surgical practices and performed surgical procedures. After January 2008, expatriates were evacuated due to insecurity and surgical care has been provided by local Somalian doctors and nurses with periodic supervisory visits from expatriate staff.

RESULTS:

Between October 2006 and December 2009, 2086 operations were performed on 1602 patients. The majority (1049, 65%) were male and the median age was 22 (interquartile range, 17-30). 1460 (70%) of interventions were emergent. Trauma accounted for 76% (1585) of all surgical pathology; gunshot wounds accounted for 89% (584) of violent injuries. Operative mortality (0.5% of all surgical interventions) was not higher when Somalian staff provided care compared to when expatriate surgeons and anesthesiologists.

CONCLUSIONS:

The delivery of surgical care in any conflict-settings is difficult, but in situations where international support is limited, the challenges are more extreme. In this model, task shifting, or the provision of services by less trained cadres, was utilized and peri-operative mortality remained low demonstrating that safe surgical practices can be accomplished even without the presence of fully trained surgeon and anesthesiologists. If security improves in Somalia, on-site training by expatriate surgeons and anesthesiologists will be re-established. Until then, the best way MSF has found to support surgical care in Somalia is continue to support in a "remote" manner.

PMID:
21762491
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC3152518
Free PMC Article
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