South African Family Practice

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Description of surgical and anaesthetic services provided at two district hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal in relation to the surgical norms and standards outlined in the Service Package for District Hospitals

MI Siddique, AJ Ross


Background: Provision of surgical services at district hospitals (DHS) is cost effective and important. The District Hospital Service Package for South Africa (package of services) specifies the services that a district hospital should provide. The aim of this study was to document the surgical services provided at two DHS in KwaZulu-Natal and to compare this with the recommendations in the package of services. Methods: In a retrospective quantitative study, data from 2008 were collected from the theatre register at two DHS. Data were analysed and results compared with the norms and standards in the package of services. Results were presented to staff at the hospitals, who then commented on the challenges of providing surgical services at DHS.Results: Only 60% and 30% respectively of procedures listed in the package of services were being carried out at the two hospitals. In total, 3 900 procedures were carried out over the year. Dundee Hospital offered a broader range of surgical procedures and anaesthetics than the Church of Scotland Hospital (COSH). COSH has a large obstetric burden, with 3 666 deliveries each year. A large number of procedures were being carried out by a single operator. Conclusions: Many surgical procedures are being carried out even though neither hospital provides the full complement of surgical services as specified in the package of services. The wide variation between the surgical services offered reflects the surgical and anaesthetic skills at the respective hospitals. Potential medico-legal hazards that require urgent attention were identified. A review of the package of services is essential to identify core procedures that must be provided at DHS.

Keywords: surgical services, anaesthetics
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