The plan, being coordinated by the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children in collaboration with Safe Surgery 2020, will allow practitioners and other stakeholders to put their heads together towards the common goal, including identifying issues to be prioritised.
NSOAP will also among other things help to improve access to quality, timely and affordable surgical services countrywide, coordinate existing efforts to avoid overlap, and address the challenges facing such services.
A study carried in 2012 using the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tool for Situational Analysis to Assess Emergency and Essential Surgical Care revealed that the average travel distance for patients receiving surgical care in Tanzania was 119 kilometres.
Various other studies have also highlighted the urgent need for prioritising safe surgery in the country, with the Lancet Commission on global surgery recommending that by the year 2030, at least 80 per cent of the population needs to have access to emergency surgical care within two hours.
Currently, the proportion of the country’s population that can’t access surgery within two hours is still unknown. But it is estimated that at least 20-40 surgical specialists are needed per 100,000 people.
The Chief Medical Officer, Prof Mohammed Bakari, told a press conference yesterday that the NSOAP will be important in terms of resource mobilisation and promoting professional surgical services in the country.
Prof Bakari said all efforts must be made to ensure the plan aligns with various national medical guidelines and policies, so that it has long-term benefits for the country.
"We need to know that Tanzania’s density of specialist surgical workforce is 0.31 physician surgeons, obstetricians and anesthesiologists per 100,000 people," he said.
According to Prof Bakari, although over 70 per cent of the country’s population lives in the rural areas, many hospitals still don’t have permanent surgical or medical specialists, anesthesiologists, or healthcare workers with formal specialty training in emergency or critical care.
Furthermore, he said high medical care costs are often a major factor in making sick people decide against seeking such care, while at least a third of households have to borrow money or sell assets to pay for healthcare services.
The director for Developing Health Globally at the General Electric Foundation (GE Foundation), Asha Verghese, said the NSOAP will act like a framework or guideline for surgical practitioners to maintain the highest standards.
Safe Surgery 2020 is a partnership of governments, implementers, researchers, and advocates aiming to improve the safety, affordability, and accessibility of surgical, anaesthesia and obstetric care throughout the world.
The project is made possible with support of GE Foundation, hosted by Dalberg Global Development Partners and implemented by the Harvard Programme in Global Surgery and Social Change.
Other partners involved are Jhpiego, Assist International, and the Global Alliance for Surgical, Obstetric, Trauma and Anaesthesia Care (The G4 Alliance).