Assessing government burn services in Ethiopia (April 2015)

April 30, 2015
Richard Bendell

In April a small international team from Interburns visited Ethiopia to meet with key staff from government burn services and the Federal Ministry of Health, to assess and make recommendations about the development of a national strategy to improve burn care and prevention across the country. The team’s main role was to provide support and technical advice on the draft strategy and new national guidelines for burn care services in Ethiopia developed by the FMOH. The visiting multi-disciplinary team were in Ethiopia from the 12th -17th April 2015 for an initial assessment and discussions with key personnel.This visit was funded by the Ministry of Health.

DSCF1465Above: The burns ward at Yekatit Hospital, Addis Ababa – the main government burn service

At the current time, burn services in Ethiopia are very limited, with a single dedicated burn unit for the whole country at Yekatit Hospital in Addis. Recognising the need to develop other services and take pressure off this overstretched unit, the FMOH has plans to create a new service at the new AABET trauma hospital as well as improve the level of care at smaller facilities across the country. The role of Interburns in this process is to assess and make recommendations on the most effective strategy for implementing this plan.

DSCF1495Above: Dr Abiye Gebre Ab and colleagues show RuthAnn Fanstone and other Interburns team members around the new build hospital, AABET.

With its large rural population, limited data on burns incidence and limited resources, Ethiopia faces many challenges common to Low and Middle Income countries globally with a high number of burn injuries. Few staff outside the national centre in Addis have received any training in burns, which has a huge impact on patient care and the clinical outcomes they experience. Knowledge of effective prevention and first aid among the wider public is also extremely limited. The national centre in Addis has a large backlog of patients for surgery due to the high ratio of patients relative to existing capacity.

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Above: Inside a primary health post in Ethiopia

Fortunately, the FMOH has recognised many of these issues and is taking steps to address them. Ethiopia has a strong overall health strategy focused on improving health care at the community level, including plans for the development of 800 primary hospitals. Its Health Extension worker programme provides an excellent potential vehicle for effective community prevention and research. The Interburns team visited a range of government and purivate hospitals in and outside Addis, as well as health posts and community health centres outside Addis.

DSCF1488Above: Primary health post in Ethiopia

There is clearly a huge need for the FMOH’s initiative and Interburns welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with the dedicated local teams to support the improvement of burn care and prevention in Ethiopia. This visit will doubtless be the first step in a long-term partnership in Ethiopia, spearheaded by the FMOH and key local clinicians with Interburns playing an important supporting role.

DSCF1507Interburns would particularly like to thank Dr Feven Girma, Dr Abiye Gebre Ab and their many colleagues for their support and hospitality (shown above with Interburns team members Dr Richard Nnabuko, Tom Potokar and RuthAnn Fanstone). We would also like to thank the FMOH for funding the flights for the assessment visit.