Surgical referral coordination from a first-level hospital: a prospective case study from rural Nepal

  • Matthew Fleming (Creator)
  • Caroline King (Creator)
  • Sindhya Rajeev (Contributor)
  • Ashma Baruwal (Contributor)
  • Dan Schwarz (Creator)
  • Ryan Schwarz (Creator)
  • Nirajan Khadka (Contributor)
  • Sami Pande (Creator)
  • Sumesh Khanal (Contributor)
  • Bibhav Acharya (Contributor)
  • Adia Benton (Contributor)
  • Selwyn O. Rogers (Creator)
  • Maria Panizales (Creator)
  • David Gyorki (Creator)
  • Heather McGee (Creator)
  • David Shaye (Creator)
  • Duncan Maru (Creator)



Abstract Background Patients in isolated rural communities typically lack access to surgical care. It is not feasible for most rural first-level hospitals to provide a full suite of surgical specialty services. Comprehensive surgical care thus depends on referral systems. There is minimal literature, however, on the functioning of such systems. Methods We undertook a prospective case study of the referral and care coordination process for cardiac, orthopedic, plastic, gynecologic, and general surgical conditions at a district hospital in rural Nepal from 2012 to 2014. We assessed the referral process using the World Health Organizationâ s Health Systems Framework. Results We followed the initial 292 patients referred for surgical services in the program. 152 patients (52%) received surgery and four (1%) suffered a complication (three deaths and one patient reported complication). The three most common types of surgery performed were: orthopedics (43%), general (32%), and plastics (10%). The average direct and indirect cost per patient referred, including food, transportation, lodging, medications, diagnostic examinations, treatments, and human resources was US$840, which was over 1.5 times the local districtâ s per capita income. We identified and mapped challenges according to the World Health Organizationâ s Health Systems Framework. Given the requirement of intensive human capital, poor quality control of surgical services, and the overall costs of the program, hospital leadership decided to terminate the referral coordination program and continue to build local surgical capacity. Conclusion The results of our case study provide some context into the challenges of rural surgical referral systems. The high relative costs to the system and challenges in accountability rendered the program untenable for the implementing organization.
Date made available2017

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