Public Release: 

Forum on how surgery can improve healthcare in SA

University of the Witwatersrand

A 2015 Lancet report indicated that five billion people do not have access to safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care when needed. Access is said to be worse in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, where nine of ten people cannot access basic surgical care.

A national forum on surgery and anaesthesia and how it is an indispensable part of achieving universal health coverage will take place on 7 and 8 December 2015 at Wits University.

The Department of Surgery at the Faculty of Health Sciences will host this forum. Surgical and anaesthetic specialists, health policy makers, public health and health system experts will discuss and debate:

  • Essential surgical care and anaesthesia as part of universal health coverage

  • Expanding access to safe, high quality, affordable surgery and anaesthesia in South Africa, particularly in rural and under-served areas

  • Appropriate workforce, training and education

  • Health system strengthening including infrastructure development

  • Financing essential surgical and anaesthetic care

  • Building linkages across disciplines

Professor Martin Smith, Head of Wits' Department of Surgery, says that for far too long surgery has been considered to be an inefficient and expensive treatment modality with limited impact on communities.

"What has now been recognised is that even in middle income countries, there is a significant unmet need with regards to surgically treatable conditions. The consequence of this is an increased burden of disability and increased poverty. It has been estimated that up to 15% of all deaths are due to surgically preventable conditions.

"In the absence of surgical care, case-fatality rates are high for common, easily treatable conditions including appendicitis, hernia, fractures, obstructed labour, congenital anomalies, and breast and cervical cancer," Smith adds.

Smith argues that surgical and anaesthesia care are essential for the treatment of many of these conditions and represent an integral component of a functional, responsive and resilient health system.

"Surgery, unlike treatment specific diseases, is a treatment system that requires a team approach and requires procurement and maintenance functions to ensure its efficiency."

Dates: 7 -8 December 2015

Time: Day 1: 08:30 - 17:00 Day 2: 07:45 -14:20

Venue: Auditorium, School of Public Health, Wits University

For more information, please email Professor Martin Smith:


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