5 billion of the world’s 7 billion people are without access to safe and affordable anaesthesia when needed, resulting in increased disability and huge numbers of deaths annually. This global health crisis has often been overlooked but is now beginning to receive more attention from national governments, the global health community, and the media. As more is now being done to tackle issues around safe surgery and anaesthesia, it is essential that strong international partnerships are formed with a joined-up solution-based approach to improving surgery and anaesthesia globally.
The Africa Grants Programme has funded Safer Anaesthesia From Education (SAFE) Paediatric
Anaesthesia courses as part of this essential collaborative approach to surgical scale-up and
development. SAFE is a three-day course in paediatric anaesthesia developed by the Association of
Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) and the World Federation of Societies of
Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), and endorsed by the Society of Pediatric Anesthesia (SPA). The aim of
the course is to provide refresher training for both physician and non-physician anaesthetists in the
essentials of paediatric anaesthesia. It is not intended to be a comprehensive training course in
paediatric anaesthesia, but rather emphasises the principles of safe care for children, in particular,
assessment, vigilance and competence in essential skills.
“Safe surgery is not possible without safe anaesthesia so it is essential to improve the knowledge
and skills of anaesthesia providers at all levels,” explained Julian Gore-Booth, WFSA CEO.
“Understandably we find that providers are especially keen to access training related to ensuring
that children can access safe anaesthesia. The SAFE paediatric course will provide the knowledge
and skills that anaesthesia providers need to treat paediatric patients for common conditions such as open fractures after road traffic accidents and appendectomies’,” he added.
29% of South Africa’s population are under 15 years old. The main causes of death for this age group are non-communicable diseases and trauma, so access to trained paediatric surgery and anaesthesia providers is essential. However, there are few specialist surgeons and anaesthetists in some areas of the country, with paediatric procedures often provided by general physicians in rural areas who have a limited level of anaesthesia training, and paediatric anaesthesia training specifically.
Recognising the need for these skills, SASA and WFSA have long collaborated on delivering the SAFE Paediatric Anaesthesia course and other SAFE programmes in areas of need on the African
Continent, but none have yet been delivered within South Africa. There are only approximately 250
anaesthetists serving the approximately 42 million people using public sector healthcare services in
South Africa. Although the health system has some world-class skills, it remains tremendously
under-resourced, with existing resources centralised in the more metropolitan centres of the
country, which is insufficient for the needs of the population.
To address these issues the WFSA and SASA jointly applied to the THET Africa Grants Programme to support the provision of the much needed SAFE programme in the rural areas of South Africa, while also further building the training skills available to the continent as a whole. The project will start in Gauteng, where the local partner is based, moving on to areas of higher need in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
“Being able to use the existing world-class skills to build a strong faculty and, from there, to enhance skills for the rest of the country is so critically needed and SASA is grateful for the partnership with WFSA and THET’s support in making this dream a reality,” explained Natalie Zimmelman, SASA CEO.
“The grant awarded will have an important impact on the lives of surgical patients in South Africa
and we are all extremely excited about this opportunity.”