Scientific Letter

The start-up phase of a non-specialist paediatric surgical service by outreach focused on capacity building at the Consolata Hospital Ikonda, Makete District, Tanzania

Alessandro Calisti, Mariagrazia Andriani, Agnes Mlawa, Gian P. Zara
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 12, No 1 | a2428 | DOI: | © 2020 Alessandro Calisti, Mariagrazia Andriani, Agnes Mlawa, Gian P. Zara | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 April 2020 | Published: 22 October 2020

About the author(s)

Alessandro Calisti, Department of Pediatric Surgery, San Camillo Forlanini Hospital, Rome, Italy
Mariagrazia Andriani, Ada Manes Foundation for Children, Pescara, Italy
Agnes Mlawa, Department of Surgery, Consolata Hospital Ikonda, Makete, Tanzania, United Republic of
Gian P. Zara, Department of Medicine, Consolata Hospital Ikonda, Makete, Tanzania, United Republic of

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age) are far lower than the recommended workforce size. Complex conditions require a significant increase in the number of paediatric surgeons. In contrast, children with minor diseases, living in rural areas, could be managed even at the district level by trained general surgeons.

Aim: The aim of this study was to develop capacity for general paediatric surgical services in a district hospital by outreach with a focus on mentorship.

Methods: Capacity building priorities for non-specialist paediatric surgery were identified and addressed using evidence-based guidelines. Local general surgeons were involved in supervised clinical decision-making and in all surgical procedures. The visiting team provided daily meetings, weekly lectures, and on-job training. Electronic copies of recent surgical textbooks were provided together with video-conferencing distant specialist consultations.

Results: A total of 715 children were handled by the visiting team during the 27-week period. Four hundred and fifty diseases were diagnosed amongst 406 children. Awareness of paediatric surgical needs, improved management of most common conditions like congenital hernias, undescended testis, hypospadias and anorectal malformations needing temporary colostomy occurred. Local general surgeons were assisted in treating 358 cases of general paediatric surgical conditions. Updated early management protocols were introduced for more complex diseases needing referral to specialist centres like solid tumours and neonatal abnormalities. The visiting team operated major paediatric surgical cases at the Consolata Hospital Ikonda.

Lessons learnt: Surgical outreach and capacity building at the district hospital level could be a possible answer to the unmet paediatric surgical needs of children living in rural areas. Apprenticeship training for general surgeons may help to fill the gap provided that they are strongly motivated and supported on acquiring and implementing their paediatric surgical skills.


global health; paediatric surgery; humanitarian outreach


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