Surgical resources in South Africa: an analysis of the inequalities between the public and private sector
Background: The full extent of the global burden of surgical disease is largely unknown, however, the scope of the problem is thought to be large. Despite the substantial burden of surgical disease, surgical services are inaccessible to many of those who need them most. There are disparities between public and private sectors in South Africa, which compound inequitable access to surgical care. This study forms part of a series analysing surgical resources in South Africa.
Methods: This study involved a descriptive analysis of surgical resources and included the total number of hospitals, of hospital beds, the number of surgical beds, the number of general surgeons (specialist and non-specialist), and the number of functional operating theatres in South Africa. A comparison was performed between the public and private sectors. Hospitals were contacted during the period from 1 October 2014 until 31 December 2014.
Results: Surgical resources were concentrated in metropolitan areas of urban provinces. There were striking differences between the public and private sectors, where private resources were comparable to those available in high income countries (HICs).
Conclusion: Improving access to surgical services in lower middle income countries (LMICs) requires addressing gaps between the public and private sector regarding infrastructure, personnel, as well as equipment. These data identified disparities between geographic regions which may be contributing to ongoing inequity in South Africa, and by doing so allows for evidence-based planning towards improving surgical infrastructure and workforce.
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