Surgery in Malawi--the training of clinical officers

Author(s): van Amelsfoort JJ, van Leeuwen PA, Jiskoot P, Ratsma YE


Doctors are scarce in Malawi and, therefore, a considerable amount of work is carried out by paramedical clinical officers (COs). Although their training is limited, they take care of the majority of patients in the country. The CO project started in the Southern region of Malawi in 2005 in order to improve the number of surgical and gynaecological operations and skills of COs. Nine district hospitals and eight Christian Health Organisation of Malawi (CHAM) hospitals were visited and all surgical registers from 2004 and 2007 were analysed and COs were interviewed. The interviewed COs felt at ease when performing operations; in 2004 they performed 61% and in 2007 87% of the surgical and gynaecological procedures itemised in the questionnaire. In 2004 a total of 18,524 operations were registered in the 17 hospitals in the Southern region of Malawi and there were 19,644 in 2007. Certified COs performed significantly more surgical than gynaecological operations. In 2004, 8.4% of their performed operations consisted of major surgical operations and 17.7% in 2007. A two-year postgraduate training in surgery is being developed for them but, in the meantime, it will be necessary to ensure a continuation of the CO project in the central and northern regions of Malawi.

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