Background: We sought to identify affordable and sustainable methods to strengthen trauma care capabilities globally, especially in developing countries, using the Guidelines for Essential Trauma Care. These guidelines were created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Society of Surgery and provide recommendations on elements of trauma care that should be in place at the range of health facilities globally.
Methods: The guidelines were used as a basis for needs assessments in 4 countries selected to represent the world's range of geographic and economic conditions: Mexico (middle income; Latin America); Vietnam (low income; east Asia); India (low income; south Asia); and Ghana (low income; Africa). One hundred sites were assessed, including rural clinics (n=51), small hospitals (n=34), and large hospitals (n=15). Site visits utilized direct inspection and interviews with administrative and clinical staff.
Results: Resources were partly adequate or adequate at most large hospitals, but there were gaps that could be improved, especially in low-income settings, such as shortages of airway equipment, chest tubes, and trauma-related medications; and prolonged periods where critical equipment (e.g., X-ray, laboratory) were unavailable while awaiting repairs. Rural clinics everywhere had difficulties with basic supplies for resuscitation even though some received significant trauma volumes. In all settings, there was a dearth of administrative functions to assure quality trauma care, including trauma registries, trauma-related quality improvement programs, and regular in-service training.
Conclusions: This study identified several low-cost ways in which to strengthen trauma care globally. It also has demonstrated the usefulness of the Guidelines for Essential Trauma Care in providing an internationally applicable, standardized template by which to assess trauma care capabilities.