Conditions that can be treated by surgery comprise more than 16% of the global disease burden. However, 5 billion people do not have access to essential surgical care. An estimated 90% of the 87 million disability-adjusted life-years incurred by surgical conditions could be averted by providing access to timely and safe surgery in low-income and middle-income countries. Population-level spatial access to essential surgery in Ghana is not known.
To assess the performance of bellwether procedures (ie, open fracture repair, emergency laparotomy, and cesarean section) as a proxy for performing essential surgery more broadly, to map population-level spatial access to essential surgery, and to identify first-level referral hospitals that would most improve access to essential surgery if strengthened in Ghana.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Population-based study among all households and public and private not-for-profit hospitals in Ghana. Households were represented by georeferenced census data. First-level and second-level referral hospitals managed by the Ministry of Health and all tertiary hospitals were included. Surgical data were collected from January 1 to December 31, 2014.
Main Outcomes and Measures
All procedures performed at first-level referral hospitals in Ghana in 2014 were used to sort each facility into 1 of the following 3 hospital groups: those without capability to perform all 3 bellwether procedures, those that performed 1 to 11 of each procedure, and those that performed at least 12 of each procedure. Candidates for targeted capability improvement were identified by cost-distance and network analysis.
Of 155 first-level referral hospitals managed by the Ghana Health Service and the Christian Health Association of Ghana, 123 (79.4%) reported surgical data. Ninety-five (77.2%) did not have the capability in 2014 to perform all 3 bellwether procedures, 24 (19.5%) performed 1 to 11 of each bellwether procedure, and 4 (3.3%) performed at least 12. The essential surgical procedure rate was greater in bellwether procedure–capable first-level referral hospitals than in noncapable hospitals (median, 638; interquartile range, 440-1418 vs 360; interquartile range, 0-896 procedures per 100 000 population; P = .03). Population-level spatial access within 2 hours to a hospital that performed 1 to 11 and at least 12 of each bellwether procedure was 83.2% (uncertainty interval [UI], 82.2%-83.4%) and 71.4% (UI, 64.4%-75.0%), respectively. Five hospitals were identified for targeted capability improvement.
Conclusions and Relevance
Almost 30% of Ghanaians cannot access essential surgery within 2 hours. Bellwether capability is a useful metric for essential surgery more broadly. Similar strategic planning exercises might be useful for other low-income and middle-income countries aiming to improve access to essential surgery.