Access to essential surgical care is vital for reduction in mortality and morbidity as a result of surgical conditions. These account for 28–32% of the overall global burden of disease, yet billions of people lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care when needed. The purpose of this study was to assess the capacity for surgical care in rural hospitals across four provinces of Pakistan.
This was a cross-sectional study undertaken in 10 rural hospitals across four provinces of the country. Of these, six were district and four sub-district hospitals that were purposively selected in consultation with the government. Data were gathered using the WHO-PGSSC Surgical Assessment Tool.
This study estimated 3 of the 6 indicators proposed by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery. While most hospitals had basic provisions of infrastructure and equipment, severe shortage of specialists was observed with 0.56 specialists (surgeons, gynecologists and anesthetists) present per 100,000 population. Two-hour access was possible for the catchment population of 7 out of the 10 hospitals. Of the 43 essential surgical procedures assessed, 13 or 30% procedures were available per hospital. The three Bellwether procedures were provided by only 1 hospital. Mean number of surgeries performed was 753 ± 979 per 100,000 population.
Our study has demonstrated major gaps in the provision of surgical care in rural hospitals in Pakistan. While developing a strategy and national action plan is necessary, implementation can immediately begin at the local level to address the gaps that need urgent attention.