Endoscopy services in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, are insufficient for the burden of disease: Is patient care compromised?

  • E Loots
  • D.L. Clarke
  • K Newton
  • C.J. Mulder


Background. Endoscopy services are central to the diagnosis and management of many gastrointestinal (GI) diseases.

Objective. To evaluate the adequacy of endoscopy services in the public sector hospitals of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, South Africa, in 2016.

Methods. A cross-sectional study was performed using a questionnaire completed by the clinical heads of endoscopy units in the public hospitals in KZN.

Results. The heads of 11 of the 12 endoscopy units responded. Two units were in tertiary-level hospitals and nine in regional hospitals. A total of 22 353 endoscopic procedures were performed annually, averaging 2 032 cases per annum per centre; they were performed by 89 endoscopists, of whom 72 (80.1%) were general surgeons. There were 0.06 registered gastroenterologists (GEs) per 100 000 population. Each endoscopist performed an average of 263 endoscopies per annum. There were 1.18 endoscopy rooms available per unit, and two units had on-site fluoroscopy available. The average waiting period for an upper endoscopy was 27 (range 7 - 60) days, for colonoscopy 29 (range 7 - 90) days and for duodenoscopy/endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography 13 (range 4 - 20) days. This included patients with alarm symptoms for GI cancers. Equipment breakages interrupted most services, except for one hospital that had a service contract. Unit heads cited lack of equipment, trained staff and maintenance contracts as major shortcomings.

Conclusions. Endoscopy units in KZN are not adequately equipped to deal with the endoscopy workload and services are plagued by frequent disruptions, which impact negatively on service delivery. There is a need to train more GEs. Patient care is compromised in these public hospitals.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135