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One-Third of Developing World Hospitals Lack Running Water

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 11 Jul 2016
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A new study reveals that more than one-third of hospitals in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) lack running water, a deficiency that can lead to unsanitary conditions for patients in general and dangerous conditions for those who need surgery.

Researchers at Stellenbosch University (SU, South Africa), Johns Hopkins University (JHU, Baltimore, MD, USA), Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (Kumasi, Ghana), and other institutions conducted a search for surgical capacity assessments in LMICs. They also extracted data regarding water availability from MEDLINE, PubMed, and the World Health Organization (WHO) global health library. National indicator data from the World Bank (Washington DC, USA) was used to create a predictive model for water availability in LMICs globally.

The researchers successfully identified 19 surgical capacity studies undertaken between 2009 and 2015 that included information on water availability, covering 430 hospitals in 19 nations. They found that 147 of the 430 hospitals lacked continuous running water (34%), ranging from less than 20% of hospitals with running water in Liberia to more than 90% in Bangladesh and Ghana. The study was published on June 17, 2016, in The Journal of Surgical Research.

“Running water is something we so take for granted, and it doesn’t exist in a third of hospitals in these countries,” said study co-author Adam Kushner, MD, MPH, of the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Instead of water just being there, some hospitals truck in water or collect it in rain barrels, with no guarantee of its cleanliness. Without clean water, there is no way to clean surgeons’ hands or instruments, wash gowns and sheets, or clean wounds to prevent or reduce infections.”

“Hopefully, people aren’t operating in those conditions, but what do you do if a woman shows up in obstructed labor and needs an emergency C-section, and it’s the dry season and the rain barrel is empty,” concluded Dr. Kushner. “You can’t operate with dirty instruments, but if you don’t she’s going to die. This is the sort of dilemma that surgeons in these hospitals face. In order to provide basic health care, you need a functioning system and running water is part of that. It shows the deficiencies in the health systems in general in those countries.”

Related Links:
Stellenbosch University
Johns Hopkins University
Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital
World Bank

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