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J Surg Educ. 2010 Jul-Aug;67(4):270-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.05.004.

Improving access to surgery in a developing country: experience from a surgical collaboration in Sierra Leone.

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Department of Surgery, Surgeons Overseas (SOS), Alpine, NJ 07620, USA.



Although surgery is increasingly recognized as an essential component of primary health care, there has been little documentation of surgical programs in low- and middle-income countries. Surgeons OverSeas (SOS) is a New York-based organization with a mission to save lives in developing countries by improving surgical care. This article highlights the surgical program in Sierra Leone as a possible model to improve access to surgery.


An SOS team conducted a needs assessment of surgical capacity in Sierra Leone in February 2008. Interventions were then developed and programs were implemented. A follow-up assessment was conducted in December 2009, which included interviews of key Sierra Leone hospital personnel and a review of operating room log books.


Based on an initial needs assessment, a program was developed that included training, salary support, and the provision of surgical supplies and equipment. Two 3-day workshops were conducted for a total of 44 health workers, salary support given to over 100 staff, and 2 containers of supplies and equipment were donated. Access to surgery, as measured by the number of major operations at Connaught Hospital, increased from 460 cases in 2007 to 768 cases in 2009.


The SOS program in Sierra Leone highlights a method for improving access to surgery that incorporates an initial needs assessment with minimal external support and local staff collaboration. The program functions as a catalyst by providing training, salary support, and supplies. The beneficial results of the program can then be used to advocate for additional resources for surgery from policy makers. This model could be beneficial in other resource-poor countries in which improved access to surgery is desired.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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