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INTRODUCTION:District hospitals are key to providing universal coverage of essential surgery and for strengthening surgical care in general. This audit set out to quantify the surgical output of all the district hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal Province (KZN) over a 6-month period to see whether district hospitals were delivering the surgical care they are expected to deliver. RESULTS:There were a total of 18,871 operations performed at 37 district hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal from July to December 2015. The number of operations per hospital varied widely between 2150 at a single large district hospital and 68 at a small district hospital, respectively. Surgical operations for obstetrical conditions made up by far the majority of operations at 57%, with gynecological operations making up the second highest at 15%. Only 12% of operations were for general surgical conditions. With regards to the bellwether procedures, 96.1% of these were cesarean sections, 2.1% were laparotomies and 1.8% were ORIFs. For almost all the 37 hospitals, the percentage of laparotomies and ORIFs performed was small to negligible, while the percentage of cesarean sections performed was high. The number of bellwether operations performed per 100,000 population was much higher than the number of general surgical or orthopedic operations performed, primarily because of the preponderance of cesarean sections conducted in each hospital. We observed a strong and significant positive correlation (+0.691, 95% CI +0.538 to +0.800, p 

Original publication





World journal of surgery

Publication Date





1653 - 1660


Epidemiology Unit, KZN Department of Health, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.


Humans, Laparotomy, Cesarean Section, Fracture Fixation, Internal, Gynecologic Surgical Procedures, Pregnancy, Hospitals, District, Health Services Accessibility, South Africa, Female, Open Fracture Reduction