Safe Surgery 2020 Forms New Public-Private Partnership to Transform Surgical Care Across Sub-Saharan Africa

Safe Surgery 2020, GE Foundation, College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA), and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) announce a new partnership to train surgical teams across 12 African countries.

Only one out of every twenty people in sub-Saharan Africa can access surgical care, meaning almost one billion people are unable to have surgery if they need it. Limited surgical capacity leads to millions of preventable deaths and disabilities every year across the continent. To transform surgical care in Sub-Saharan Africa, a new public-private partnership will train surgical teams across 12 countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The GE Foundation and Safe Surgery 2020 are partnering with the RCSI/COSECSA Collaboration Programme to improve the quality of surgery available across Africa by expanding a leadership development program for surgeons, anesthetists, obstetrician-gynecologists, and scrub nurses. The new partnership will blend Safe Surgery 2020’s proven leadership curriculum which is devised and led by Jhpiego, COSECSA’s extensive network and broad reach, and the master trainer curriculum of the RCSI Institute of Leadership to rapidly improve the quality of surgery. 

“The surgical leadership development program is so effective because each team member is empowered to act as a change agent, able to devise and implement new solutions to improve patients’ care. We are excited to partner with COSECSA and RCSI to expand this program,” says Asha Varghese, Global Health Director of the GE Foundation.

Integrating the World Health Organization’s safe surgery checklist to ensure high-quality care is provided to all patients, the program takes a “train the trainer” approach where a regional network of master trainers work with in-country trainers who then deliver the curriculum to surgical teams.

This training model is proven to develop surgical team’s skills effectively, quickly, and sustainably. For example, over the past three years, Safe Surgery 2020, an innovative partnership supported by the GE Foundation, has worked closely with the governments of Ethiopia and Tanzania to enhance surgical care. The initiative has already trained over 440 surgical leaders and mentors in Ethiopia and Tanzania through their leadership development program, and upskilled an additional 800 surgical workers through specialized training programs to further advance the quality of surgical care available.

Since launching training programs in 2003, COSECSA has scaled up surgical training in the region with COSECSA trainees now accounting for approximately half of all current surgical trainees in the region. COSECSA has played a major role in the in-service professional development of surgeons and other cadres of the surgical team in its region. RCSI has worked with COSECSA, through a partnership that is funded by Irish Aid, providing expertise to design curricula, run exams, develop e-learning systems and set quality benchmarks. 

Professor Russell White, Chairman of the Education, Scientific and Research Committee for COSECSA, explains: “All parties are deeply committed to providing affordable, accessible, safe surgery to the ECSA region as a whole, and even beyond to the entire African continent.  COSECSA has become one of the leading groups involved with surgical education in the region, with currently more than 500 young surgeons in training.  We are very enthusiastic to be a part of the collaboration between COSECSA, RCSI, GE Foundation and Safe Surgery 2020 to provide life-saving surgical care and education to so many people in the region.”

Ashley Eberhart