Introduction: Severe malaria is a life-threatening medical emergency and requires prompt and effective treatment to prevent death. There is paucity of published information on current practices of severe malaria case management in sub-Saharan Africa; we evaluated the management practices for severe malaria in Ugandan health facilities
Methods and findings: We did a cross sectional survey, using multi-stage sampling methods, of health facilities in 11 districts in the eastern and mid-western parts of Uganda. The study instruments were adapted from the WHO hospital care assessment tools. Between June and August 2009, 105 health facilities were surveyed and 181 health workers and 868 patients/caretakers interviewed. None of the inpatient facilities had all seven components of a basic care package for the management of severe malaria consistently available during the 3 months prior to the survey. Referral practices were appropriate for <10% (18/196) of the patients. Prompt care at any health facility was reported by 29% (247/868) of patients. Severe malaria was correctly diagnosed in 27% of patients (233).Though the quinine dose and regimen was correct in the majority (611/868, 70.4%) of patients, it was administered in the correct volumes of 5% dextrose in only 18% (147/815). Most patients (80.1%) had several doses of quinine administered in one single 500 ml bottle of 5% dextrose. Medications were purchased by 385 (44%) patients and medical supplies by 478 patients (70.6%).
Conclusions: Management of severe malaria in Ugandan health facilities was sub-optimal. These findings highlight the challenges of correctly managing severe malaria in resource limited settings. Priority areas for improvement include triage and emergency care, referral practises, quality of diagnosis and treatment, availability of medicines and supplies, training and support supervision.