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Covid-19 could cause 28 million cancelled surgeries globally

May 2020 DailyNation; Surgeons will have to create time to clear the backlog of patients in need of elective surgeries, as the number keeps growing everyday.

During the onset of the coronavirus in the country, elective surgeries across all government hospitals were suspended in March, forcing thousands of Kenyans in need of one or more of these scheduled surgeries to restore their lives to adjust.

An elective surgery or procedure is surgery that is scheduled in advance because it does not involve a medical emergency. Whereas it may be a surgery you choose to have for a better quality of life, but not for a life-threatening condition, an elective surgery, however, does not always mean it is optional. It simply means that the surgery can be scheduled in advance.

Before Covd-19, it is estimated that hospitals across the country were conducting about 2,253 non-emergency surgeries on a weekly basis. 

A new study released Saturday says that a staggering 28 million elective surgeries across the globe could be cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic leading to patients facing lengthy waits for their health issues to be resolved.

In Kenya, each additional week of disruption is estimated to lead to the cancellation of an extra 1,600 surgeries, significantly extending the period it will take to clear the backlog.

“The new directive by the ministry to test for Covid-19 before admitting patients has further worsened the situation because patients now fear that a positive test will result to an automatic isolation and increase in costs which insurances will not even cater for,” lamented Dr Louis Listwa, who chairs the Kenya society of anaesthesiologists, adding that hospitals’ capacity has significantly reduced to between 30 and 35 per cent.

In a letter addressed to all the county executive committee members of health in March, the government recommended that hospitals work to postpone or cancel all elective and non-urgent surgical procedures.

On Friday, Director-General for Health Dr Patrick Amoth said that the interim infection prevention and control recommendations for Covid-19 in hospitals were still in effect.

Asked whether the directive had been lifted he responded with: “still stands” through a text message.

The modelling study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, indicates that each additional week of disruption to hospital services will be associated with a further 2.4 million cancellations.

According to the CovidSurg Collaborative projections, based on a three-month period of peak disruption to hospital services due to Covid-19, 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide will be cancelled or postponed in 2020.

Led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, researchers collected detailed information from surgeons across 359 hospitals and 71 countries on plans for cancellation of elective surgery. The data was then statistically modelled to estimate totals for cancelled surgery across 190 countries.

“Although essential, cancellations place a heavy burden on patients and society. Patients’ conditions may deteriorate, worsening their quality of life as they wait for rescheduled surgery. In some cases, for example cancer, delayed surgeries may lead to a number of unnecessary deaths,” Mr Aneel Bhangu, a consultant surgeon and senior lecturer at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) commented.

The researchers project that worldwide 72.3 per cent of planned surgeries would be cancelled through the peak period of Covid-19 related disruption. Most cancelled surgeries will be for non-cancer conditions. Orthopaedic procedures will be cancelled most frequently, with 6.3 million orthopaedic surgeries cancelled worldwide over a 12-week period. It is also projected that globally 2.3 million cancer surgeries will be cancelled or postponed.

This is the latest projections in a stockpile of projections of the impact of the ongoing coronavirus on different illnesses. Other projections include those of impact of Covid-19 on HIV which estimate that lack of access to the life-saving drugs could result in additional 500,000 deaths in sub-Saharan countries, while cancer cases could also shoot up.

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