NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka
REPORTS have revealed that an estimated 1.7 billion of children and adolescents worldwide do not have access to surgical care.
What is alarming, however, is that Africa has the greatest unmet surgical needs in the world, with a projected 85 percent of children on the continent requiring some kind of surgical care by the age of 15.
Nevertheless, the good news is that a Scotland-based charity organisation, Kids Operating Rooms (KidsOR) has come to the aid of Africa with a plan ‘Africa to 2030’ which will see KidsOR create 120 centres of excellence across sub-Saharan Africa, each with world-class, state-of-the-art dedicated Operating Rooms for children.
By installing the centres across Africa, the charity aims at providing essential surgery to more than 635,000 children and saving thousands of lives.
KidsOR is doing this with the objective of ensuring that every child accesses safe surgery when they need it.
In Zambia, the charity, working with Government, has installed six surgery rooms at the University Teaching Hospitals (UTH) in Lusaka and Arthur Davison Children’s Hospitals (ADCH) in Ndola paediatric wings worth US$1.2 million.
Two of the six operating rooms in the country have been achieved courtesy of KidsOR’s partnership with cleft-focused organisation Smile Train.
The charity collated data on surgical cases in the past 24 months at UTH so that it could track the difference made once the operating rooms were installed.
KidsOR discovered that in the past two years, almost one in five operations that went ahead did so without the necessary surgical resources and 40 percent were conducted missing the necessary anaesthetic equipment.
Nonetheless, these issues will be rectified as soon as surgeons start using the operating rooms to treat children.
Organisation communications officer Muthoni Wahome explained that to install an operating room costs approximately US$200,000.
“This covers the costs of designing the room, equipment, shipping and installation of the equipment. Therefore, across the six operating rooms in Lusaka and Ndola, it is over US$1 million investment by KidsOR,” Ms Wahome said.
She said identification of the hospitals where installations of KidsORs are required is done through the Ministry of Health and the surgeons in each country through the Paediatric Society or Surgical Association.
Ms Wahome believes that the six Paediatric ORs in Zambia are a step closer towards achieving the United Nations’ third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-3), which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
This development at the two hospitals means more children will be expected to access safe surgery.
Director of Africa for KidsOR, Rosemary Mugwe, is proud that the organisation has installed and equipped six operating rooms across two hospitals.
“This is our largest project in one country at a go and will ensure that surgeons have the right equipment to save thousands of children’s lives for years to come,” she said with joy.
Similarly, UTH consultant Bruce Bvulani said the renovations and re-equipping of the theatre suite at the hospital is not only timely but also momentous.
Besides renovating and equipping operating rooms, KidsOR works with local medics, health ministries, professional bodies/academic institutions and like-minded partners.
This enables independence and a sustainability of services which eventually contributes to the growth of a country’s health care system.
Dr Bvulani believes the new ORs will put a smile not only on the faces of the children, but the surgeons as they use their new wares in a refurbished suite.
Giving a background of the paediatric surgical operating suite at UTH, Dr Bvulani explained that the facility was given to the Zambian people via the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 1983.
It was a state-of-the-art unit and has been the centre of children’s surgery in Zambia since inception.
“Unfortunately, the unit had become dilapidated over the years, and with increasing numbers of children, and more complex surgeries being conducted there, was an urgent need for better facilities.
Additionally, the unit has now become a training centre for paediatric surgery. On behalf of the children of Zambia, we are truly grateful to KidsOR, and we promise to make full use of the equipment for the betterment of the children.”
Furthermore, Senior Medical Superintendent UTH Adult Hospital, Charles Mutemba, said the institution will ensure the unit is used to the maximum benefit of Zambian children.
Explaining the problems of the unit, Dr Mutemba said the theatre has had multiple challenges, from poorly functioning ventilators not suited for babies, to failing diathermy units over the years.
He is of the view that the ‘new’ theatre environment will enhance the status of UTH as a centre of excellence in the provision and training of paediatric surgery.
“We thank our funders for giving the D block children’s theatre a much-needed facelift. This is in line with the government’s desire to ensure provision of quality healthcare to all its people, and especially vulnerable children,” he said.
Additionally, senior medical superintendent and Consultant Paediatrician at ADCH Mwansa Kaunda said the benefits of installing such modern theatre equipment cannot be overstated.
Dr Mwansa said there will be an increased capacity and ability to care for more paediatric patients considering the hospital is already catering for the northern part of the country.
This means expanded services and more treatment options at the hospital, thereby resulting in improved quality of health for children.
“Additionally, this new and faster equipment will help our specialists attend to our young patients expeditiously and reduce on referrals to Lusaka.
What’s more, the new equipment and set-up of theatre will improve efficiency in procedures, reduce the risk of post-operative wound infections and improve our scores during hospital performance assessment.
I am so excited as I never imagined that our operating room could look so nice. The last time it got a touch up was in 1978,” he said.
Dr Mwansa said the new operating rooms will not only save lives but also act as a centre of excellence and training.
In every KidsOR operating room, when surgery is taking place, a trainee surgeon or anaesthetist is usually in the room.
Currently, the charity envisions offering scholarship grants, at minimum of two paediatric surgeons in Zambia.
KidsOR works directly with local surgeon teams across Africa and Latin America to transform hospital spaces into dedicated operating rooms for children’s surgery, creating child-friendly surroundings and providing surgeons with the specialist training and equipment they need to care for their nation’s children.
Since 2018, KidsOR has worked closely with ministries of health, hospitals and doctors across low- and middle-income countries, delivering more than 200,000 individual items of equipment to install paediatric operating rooms.
Through partnerships with like-minded organisations, KidsOR has successfully delivered state-of-the-art paediatric theatres at Bugando Medical Centre, in Tanzania; Hospital General Idrissa, in Senegal, University Hospital Medical Centre Cote D’Ivoire; Armed Forces Specialist Hospital in Nigeria; and Bethesda Hospital Democratic Republic of Congo.
NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka