Barriers to Surgical Care at a Tertiary Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda

Myles Dworkin, Thierry Cyuzuzo, Jean de Dieu Hategekimana, Jean Katabogama, Faustin Ntirenganya, Jennifer Rickard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The disproportionate distribution of surgical resources across the globe has left many in low- and middle-income countries without proper care. Patients often have complex surgical problems that are worsened by delayed presentation. We aim to describe barriers to surgical care at a tertiary hospital in Kigali, Rwanda. Materials and methods: A prospective review of all patients undergoing general and orthopedic surgery was performed at a tertiary hospital in Rwanda. Patients completed a questionnaire regarding their presurgical interactions with the health-care system. Results: Over a 3-wk period, there were 24 (33%) general and 49 (67%) orthopedic surgery patients. Patients reported delays seeking care (n = 21, 29%), reaching care (n = 28, 38.5%), and receiving care (n = 44, 60%). The median number of days from first symptom to surgery was 7.3 d and was significantly longer for patients reporting at least 1 barrier to care (P < 0.001). Barriers reported during the care-seeking time period had the largest impact on time to surgery (51.5 d versus 5.7 d, P = 0.01). Meanwhile, the most frequently reported barriers included not knowing care was needed (n = 17, 23%), transportation issues (n = 25, 34%), and surgical staff availability (n = 23, 32.5%). Conclusions: Initiatives are needed to address common barriers to surgical care in Rwanda. Educational programs designed to help patients identify key symptoms could encourage earlier presentation to health-care providers. System-based projects to improve transportation could facilitate patient transfers within the health-care system. Finally, increasing surgical staff at hospitals throughout the country would reduce delays and improve access.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-155
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Delivery of health care
  • Global surgery
  • Referral and consultation
  • Rwanda

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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