The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery recommends a minimum of 20 surgical specialists and 5,000 annual operations per 100,000 population by 2030. In 2012, Sierra Leone was far from reaching these targets. This study aimed to assess the changes in surgical activity, surgical workforce, and surgical productivity between 2012 and 2017.
A nationwide, retrospective mapping of surgical activity and workforce in 2012 was repeated in 2017. All 60 facilities performing comprehensive surgery in Sierra Leone in 2017 were identified and data was obtained from surgical records and through structured interviews with facility directors. Annual estimates were calculated and compared with 2012.
The surgical workforce increased from 164.5 to 312.8 full-time positions. The annual volume of surgeries was enhanced by 15.6% (95% CI: 7.8-23.4%) from 24,152 to 27,928 (26,048-29,808) operations. With simultaneous population growth, this led to a decrease in surgical volume from 400 to 372 procedures per 100,000 population and an unmet operative need of 92.7%. The mean productivity of surgical providers went from 2.8 to 1.7 surgeries per week per full-time position. An increasing number of caesarean deliveries were performed in public institutions, by associate clinicians.
The unmet need for surgery in Sierra Leone remains very high, despite an increase in the surgical workforce, subsidizing maternal healthcare, and initiation of a surgical task-sharing program. The decline in surgical productivity with simultaneous increases in the surgical workforce calls for further exploration of the barriers to access and delivery of surgical care in Sierra Leone.

Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.