Imagine that you’re scheduled to have surgery. Maybe you need your appendix removed, or an emergency Caesarean section - something urgent, something that could save your life.
Imagine your anaesthesiologist has limited access to training, CME, or peer support. Maybe there is no trained anaesthesia provider at all. The operating room has no oxygen, no pulse oximeter, no suction machine, and the electricity keeps cutting out.
Imagine the cost of the procedure is going to devastate you and your family.
5 billion people across the world don’t have to imagine that scenario.
Access to safe anaesthesia is an essential component in tackling this global crisis in surgical care. Access to basic monitoring equipment is essential in ensuring that the anaesthesia is safe. Yet an estimated 70% of operating rooms in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have a pulse oximeter. 41% of hospitals in Latin America, and 45% in South Asia face the same crisis.
A lack of access to equipment is a truly global problem.
So what are the WFSA doing to solve it?
A pulse oximeter is a key piece of equipment needed in the operating room. It allows anaesthesia providers to monitor a patient’s oxygen levels during a surgical procedure, and afterwards in recovery. The pulse oximetry gap is a major contributor to the higher rates of anaesthesia mortality in low-resource settings, and the WFSA is part of a ground-breaking initiative to close it.
WFSA co-founded the independent charity Lifebox Foundation in 2011. Their tagline is ‘saving lives through safer surgery’, and the goal is to make surgery and anaesthesia safer around the world. Lifebox works with local teams to introduce the equipment and essential safety measures as part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Surgical Safety Checklist. With help from the WFSA’s global network, and close collaboration with WFSA members, Lifebox is delivering pulse oximeters and training worldwide. The success of Lifebox is one of the WFSA’s proudest achievements over the past 60 years.
Here are five facts about Lifebox and how pulse oximeters and safety training are helping to save lives.
FACT: Anaesthesia and surgery in low-resource settings is 100 to 1000 times more dangerous than in high-resource countries
For the first time in history, you’re more likely to be killed by a surgically-treatable condition than an infectious disease. But in low-resource settings, surgery is all too often life-threatening, not life-saving. That’s why Lifebox is committed to making surgery safer - for everyone.
FACT: More than 70,000 operating rooms worldwide are delivering surgery without pulse oximetry monitoring
A pulse oximeter makes surgery safer yet this essential piece of monitoring equipment is missing from over 70,000 operating rooms worldwide. In these operating rooms anaesthesia providers watch over their patients with a stethoscope and a finger on the pulse. Since 2011, the international NGO has distributed nearly 10,000 environment-appropriate pulse oximeters across 90 countries.
FACT: The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist is a life-saving communications tool proven to reduce the risk of anaesthesia and surgical complications and mortality by 40%
Lifebox works with operating room teams in low-resource settings to introduce these essential safety checks and workflows that makes anaesthesia and surgery safer for everyone in the room.
FACT: The Lifebox education programme is available for free download in more than 6 languages
Education makes surgery safer long-term. Lifebox works closely with healthcare professionals around the world to support safe surgery and anaesthesia practice with training, peer-support and follow-up. A free, multi-language educational programme with a ‘train the trainer’ component enables colleagues to take what they have learned at Lifebox teaching workshops back to their hospitals – and teach.
FACT: Lifebox has made surgery and anaesthesia safer for 10 million patients
However, there is still much more to do. Advocacy campaigning, which creates a strong voice to challenge global organisations and governments to do more to increase access to safe and affordable anaesthesia care, is an important part of the WFSA’s role as global network of anaesthesiologists.
This year The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery and DCP3 by The World Bank, showed the world that this really needs to be a priority. The WFSA was proud to be a voice in these developments. As an organisation that has official relations with the WHO, the WFSA actively supported the passing of the ‘Strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health coverage’ resolution at the 68th World Health Assembly on 22nd May 2015.
As we look forward to the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals later this year, the WFSA will continue to support safety in operating rooms around the world, while advocating for anaesthesia and surgery to be given priority on the post 2015 health agenda. For more information on our advocacy programmes, please click here.