Optimal chemotherapy management is substandard in low and middle-income countries. We aimed to identify major gaps to design interventional strategies for improved chemotherapy management at Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital (TASH), Ethiopia. This study was conducted using an observational checklist, open-ended questions, record review, and key informant interviews of department heads and focal persons at TASH. Findings were categorized into specific themes that developed. Chemotherapy represented 60.2% of the hospital medication budget. Drug utilization was quantified via monthly consumption documentation and forecasting. However, unreliable data resulted in frequent stockouts (unavailability of the item when it is needed) of chemotherapy with only 67.8% availability. Thirteen healthcare personnel (9 nurses, 2 pharmacists and 2 hospital cleaners) were interviewed: all clinical staff but neither of hospital cleaners believed that they were at risk of hazardous agents. Challenges identified included inadequate and frequent stockouts (unavailability of the item when it is needed) of personal protective equipment, lack of standardized guidelines for chemotherapy handling, admixture, and disposal, lack of designated preparation rooms, and lack of training. All nine nurses handled chemotherapy admixtures despite only two nurses previously receiving in-service training. Most of the participants had never witnessed the disposal of anticancer drugs. Prompted by the results of this study, a dialogue was initiated among members of TASH, the American Cancer Society and the University of North Carolina to implement action-oriented projects to address the gaps identified at TASH. These gaps directly and indirectly affect care and treatment outcomes of patients at a large cancer center. Collaborations with well-resourced centers are potential models for improving chemotherapy management.
Keywords: Access; Ethiopia; chemotherapy; disposal; safe-handling.