2.2 Billion People Worldwide Lack Access to Surgical Services

Low-income regions have fewer than two operating theaters per 100,000 individuals
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- More than 2 billion people worldwide do not have adequate access to surgical services, and low-income countries in particular have low levels of surgical care, according to a study published online July 1 in The Lancet.

Luke M. Funk, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues evaluated data from 769 hospitals in 92 countries that participated in the World Health Organization's (WHO) Safe Surgery Saves Lives initiative to calculate ratios for the number of operating theaters to hospital beds in seven geographical regions worldwide. They used hospital bed figures from 190 WHO member states to estimate how many operating theaters per 100,000 people exist in 21 subregions, and sent surveys to anesthesia providers in 72 countries to estimate pulse oximetry availability.

The researchers estimated that the number of operating theaters ranged from 1.0 per 100,000 individuals in west sub-Saharan Africa to 25.1 per 100,000 in eastern Europe. They also found that high-income subregions all averaged more than 14 operating theaters per 100,000 individuals, but that low-income regions, which represent 2.2 billion individuals, had fewer than two operating theaters per 100,000 individuals. In addition, pulse oximetry data from 54 countries revealed that approximately 77,700 operating theaters were not outfitted with pulse oximeters.

"The disparity in operating theater and equipment availability between resource rich and poor countries is substantial and its reduction will be very important for public health," the authors write.

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