Comprehensive national analysis of emergency and essential surgical capacity in Rwanda

Br J Surg. 2012 Mar;99(3):436-43. doi: 10.1002/bjs.7816. Epub 2012 Jan 11.


Background: Disparities in the global availability of operating theatres, essential surgical equipment and surgically trained providers are profound. Although efforts are ongoing to increase surgical care and training, little is known about the surgical capacity in developing countries. The aim of this study was to create a baseline for surgical development planning at a national level.

Methods: A locally adapted World Health Organization survey was conducted in November 2010 to assess emergency and essential surgical capacity and volumes, with on-site interviews at 44 district and referral hospitals in Rwanda. Results were compiled for education and capacity development discussions with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and the Rwanda Surgical Society.

Results: Among 10·1 million people, there were 44 hospitals and 124 operating rooms (1·2 operating rooms per 100,000 persons). There was a total of 50 surgeons practising full- or part-time in Rwanda (0·49 total surgeons per 100,000 persons). The majority of consultant surgeons worked in the capital (covering 10 per cent of the population). Anaesthesia was performed primarily by anaesthesia technicians, and six of 44 hospitals had no trained anaesthesia provider. Continuous availability of electricity, running water and generators was lacking in eight hospitals, and 19 reported an absence or shortage in the availability of pulse oximetry. Equipment for life-saving surgical airway procedures, particularly in children, was lacking. A dedicated emergency area was available in only 19 hospitals. In 2009 and 2010 over 80,000 surgical procedures (major and minor) were recorded annually in Rwanda.

Conclusion: A comprehensive countrywide assessment of surgical capacity in resource-limited settings found severe shortages in available resources. Immediate local feedback is a useful tool for creating a baseline of surgical capacity to inform country-specific surgical development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / statistics & numerical data
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Medical Services / supply & distribution*
  • Equipment and Supplies, Hospital / supply & distribution
  • General Surgery*
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, District / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Rwanda
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / supply & distribution*