Trauma handling and treatment in Africa needs more support

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African healthcare systems need more financial support for trauma emergencies to rollout immediate treatment upon injury.

“You hear a lot about the mortality from HIV, TB, Malaria, and we have all these Best Malaria campaigns, these initiatives and all this foreign funding coming in to tackle the triple epidemic and that’s very good, but how often do you hear a big trauma campaign?” Flying Doctors Nigeria head Ola Orekunrin told CNBC Africa on Friday.

“Trauma, on a global scale, accounts for more deaths in the world than HIV, TB and Malaria combined, and 13 per cent of deaths across the world are caused by trauma and injury.”

Attracting funding for trauma as opposed to HIV or tuberculosis, , according to Orekunin, is a lot more difficult as there is no straightforward solution or treatment to alleviate the problem.

Managing trauma needs specific hospital facilities and treatment methods that are not as readily and easier available as HIV and tuberculosis treatment.

Other aspects of trauma handling include adequate ambulance transportation and quick response time to trauma incidences as they happen.

“There needs to be a controlled system where the people in the ambulance that have picked up the patient can communicate with the hospitals and find out whether the right professionals are there, whether all the machines and diagnostics equipment needed to treat that patient is in place. All that needs to be done in a maximum of an hour, the golden hour,” Orekurin explained.

The golden hour of trauma is the 60 minutes after an accident, where the patient’s chances of being saved are at their highest.  

According to Orekurin, 80 per cent of the world’s trauma occurs in low middle-income countries like Nigeria, where it is also the leading cause of death in some parts.

Flying Doctors Nigeria, a social enterprise that provides urgent air ambulance services, evacuates people from particularly rural areas, where appropriate medical care is lacking. They provide their services to the entire West African sub-continent.

Challenges Flying Doctors often face include a lack of adequate runways to land on in various parts of the country, where some airports operate only during the day.

In 2010, the organisation managed to evacuate 500 injured victims to safety and appropriate medical care.  

“The affordability of healthcare is a worldwide emergency at the moment and I think that we really need to look at how we can provide solutions to Africa’s poor,” said Orekunin.