January 5, 2018


The study from the University of Cape Town, was published in the internationally respected medical journal The Lancet,

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Africans Twice as Likely to Die After Surgery

Africans Twice as Likely to Die After Surgery

It is little wonder that our leaders so often leave their country of origin when they need medical treatment as they are more than twice as likely to die after an operation in Africa compared with the global average post-surgery survival rate, a new study has revealed.


The study from the University of Cape Town, just published in the internationally respected medical journal The Lancet, shows that despite Africans being generally younger and healthier than the average patient outside the continent, and even though the surgery they undergo tends to be more minor, over 2 per cent of patients in Africa die within 30 days of an operation compared to a global average of nearer 1 per cent.

The study by an international team of researchers was based on data derived from 11,422 adult patients across 247 hospitals in 25 countries.

Of patients in Africa going for elective surgery, that is planned surgery rather than an emergency operation, 1 per cent die within 30 days of the operation, again twice the global average.

Just over 18 per cent of post-operation patients in Africa the study says, develop complications such as pneumonia or a stroke.

Professor Bruce Biccard who co-authored the study says that the main problem is the lack of human resources in Africa and in particularl not enough trained medical staff to identify complications after surgery.


Professor Biccard also highlighted a “silent killer”, the fact that that so few Africans have access to elective surgery. The study suggests that the number of operations performed in Africa is 20 times lower than the actual demand for such surgery.

“The real sad thing is that there is a lot of surgery obviously that is not happening”, Biccard told the UK newspaper The Guardian. “That is probably a huge killer in Africa”, he added.

The study highlights the problem of the lack of a trained medical workforce in Africa, the limited number of specialist surgeons with just 0.7 specialists per 100,000 head of population compared to a recommended 20-40, added to the problems of too few hospital beds and insufficient systems to monitor patients post-operation.

“There is no way we are going to be able to train enough physicians to fill this deficit in human resources”, Professor Biccard said.


Sadly, instead of African leaders making enough effort to fix the ailing the healthcare in their backyards they would rather take a flight abroad to seek medical treatment even for minor ailments.

Some of the African leaders who have recently jetted off abroad for “specialized treatment” include South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, Cord leader Raila Odinga, retired president Mwai Kibaki, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu, Angolan President Dos Santos and Zimbabwean former President Robert Mugabe, just to mention a few.


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