Scielo RSS <![CDATA[SAMJ: South African Medical Journal]]> vol. 107 num. 11 lang. es <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Promoting obesity</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>An approach to anaemia diagnosis - concerns in primary care</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>HIV-positive patients in the intensive care unit</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>End-of-life care and organ and tissue donation in South Africa - it's time for a national policy to lead the way</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>30 days in medicine</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Harold James Mons Duncan, 1929 - 2017</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Lessons learnt from the introduction of the contraceptive implant in South Africa</b>]]> In 2014, South Africa (SA) introduced the subdermal contraceptive implant with the aim of expanding the contraceptive method mix and availability of long-acting reversible methods in the public sector. Three years on, concerns have been raised about the decline in uptake, early implant removals and challenges in service delivery. This article explores the lessons learnt from the introduction of contraceptive technologies elsewhere and applies these to the SA context. Drawing on the World Health Organization's conceptual framework for the introduction of new contraceptive methods, and subsequent literature on the topic, lessons are classified into six cross-cutting themes. Recommendations highlight the need for SA to review and explore strategies to strengthen current implant services, including the provision of improved provider training aimed at sensitive, client-centred approaches; increased community engagement; and improved systems for programmatic monitoring and evaluation. With implementation of these recommendations, worrying trends in the provision of implants could be reversed. <![CDATA[<b>Strengthening implant provision and acceptance in South Africa with the 'Any woman, any place, any time' approach: An essential step towards reducing unintended pregnancies</b>]]> Progress in reducing unintended pregnancies in South Africa is slow. The implant, introduced in 2014, expanded the range of available long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) and held much promise. Uptake, however, has declined precipitously, in spite of its 'unmatched effectiveness' and high levels of satisfaction for most users. We propose policy and provider interventions to raise implant use, underscored by a 'LARC-first' approach. Contraceptive counselling should focus on the particular benefits of LARCs and methods be presented in order of effectiveness. Moreover, implants hold particular advantages for certain groups, especially adolescents and young women, in whom it is considered first-line contraception. Provision of immediate postpartum and post-abortion implants is safe and highly acceptable, yet remains under-utilised. Implant services at HIV and tuberculosis clinics are a key priority, as is inclusion of LARC provision within school health services. Implants could also be delivered by existing mobile outreach services, for example in sex worker programmes. Services could be built around nurses dedicated solely to providing implants, with other health workers receiving brief refresher training. Women who experience side-effects, especially abnormal bleeding, require timely interventions, following a standardised protocol, including use of medications. Encouraging return for side-effects, follow-up phone calls and home visits would raise continuation rates. Removal services require doctor support or designated nurses at specific centres. Limited access to removal services, health workers' resistance or botched procedures will further undermine implant provision. Rapid implant demonstration projects in postpartum wards, schools, outreach services and by dedicated providers may rapidly advance the field. Together, the actions outlined here will ensure that the implant fulfils its potential and reinvigorates family planning services. <![CDATA[<b>The African Hospitalist Fellowship</b>]]> The African Paediatric Fellowship Programme is rolling out a training course for newly qualified paediatricians to equip them with the leadership skills to function in complex general paediatric settings. The care of children in Africa carries its own unique demands, from the layering effects of multiple conditions through to establishing and sustaining services under severe resource constraints. This novel training concept aims to strengthen confidence and knowledge in areas that are not priorities during standard general paediatric training. The skills gained are considered of great relevance in assisting general paediatricians to achieve their full potential in their careers. <![CDATA[<b>Provision of acute and elective general surgical care at a tertiary facility in the era of subspecialisation</b>]]> BACKGROUND. The need for an acute care and general surgical unit (ACGSU) to provide care for patients previously managed on an ad hoc basis by subspecialist units was recognised by the provincial government of the Western Cape Province, South Africa, the management of Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) and the Department of Surgery. OBJECTIVE. To describe the resulting ACGSU and its functioning. METHODS. Data available from administrative records, patient files and operating room forms were collected in spreadsheet form for the period July 2013 - November 2016 inclusive. RESULTS. The ACGSU comprised a medical care team of four consultants and four to five trainees. A total of 7 571 patients were seen during the study period, the majority (66.1%) referred from the GSH Emergency Centre. Skin and soft-tissue infections formed the major disease complex. A total of 3 144 operative records were available. The most common procedures were wound debridement and inguinal hernia repairs. Trainees acted as primary surgeon in most cases. Complications (Clavien-Dindo grades I - V) were noted in 25.0% of patients. CONCLUSIONS. The ACGSU provides patient management that would otherwise complicate care in the subspecialist surgical units. It serves as a training ground for registrars and stands as a model for other institutions. Further research into the effect on patient care is planned. <![CDATA[<b>Kaposi's sarcoma: Good outcome with doxorubicin, bleomycin and vincristine sulphate (ABV) chemotherapy and highly active antiretroviral therapy</b>]]> There is little published information on effective treatment of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) in children in low-income countries. We prospectively treated 12 patients with an institutional review board-approved protocol consisting of four monthly courses of doxorubicin (Adriamycin), bleomycin and vincristine sulphate (ABV), with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) plus co-trimoxazole prophylaxis for those who were HIV-positive, with additional vincristine if remission was not achieved after 4 months. Maintenance HAART plus co-trimoxazole was given to all HIV-positive patients. A fine-needle aspirate and CD4+ count were done if possible, and staging was performed according to Mitsuyasu. Eight of ten HIV-positive patients with stage III - IVB disease, and both HIV-negative patients with stage I disease, were in remission after 473 - 1 490 (mean 939) days. One patient died after absconding during treatment, and one died from neutropenia-related pulmonary infection. ABV with or without HAART is an effective treatment option for children with KS. <![CDATA[<b>Protecting personal information: Implications of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act for healthcare professionals</b>]]> Careless handling of patient information in daily medical practice can result in Health Professions Council of South Africa sanction, breach of privacy lawsuits and, in extreme cases, serious monetary penalty or even imprisonment. This review will focus on the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act (No. 4 of 2013) and the implications thereof for healthcare professionals in daily practice. Recommendations regarding the safeguarding of information are made. <![CDATA[<b>Investigating nystagmus in patients with traumatic brain injury: A systematic review (1996 - 2016)</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a health and socioeconomic concern worldwide. In patients with TBI, post-traumatic balance problems are often the result of damage to the vestibular system. Nystagmus is common in these patients, and can provide insight into the damage that has resulted from the trauma. OBJECTIVE. To present a systematic overview of published literature regarding nystagmus in patients with TBI. METHODS. Nine databases and platforms were searched during October 2016 for articles published between 1996 and 2016. Studies of any research design and published in English that focused on nystagmus in patients with TBI were considered for inclusion. A total of 110 articles were screened once duplicates had been removed, and 29 full-text articles were assessed. Eleven articles were included in the quality appraisal phase (using the McMaster tool), after which 10 articles were included in this review. RESULTS. This review describes nystagmus in 713 patients, and all articles reviewed described the type of assessment method that was used. However, the results lacked comprehensive data regarding the assessment, measurement and description of nystagmus in TBI patients, or the possible link and relationship between nystagmus and TBI. CONCLUSIONS. This systematic review indicated that: (i) there is a growing body of evidence that benign paroxysmal positional vertigo should be considered during the medical examination of all patients suffering from head trauma; (ii) all patients with TBI should undergo visual (eye movement) and vestibular examination; and (iii) future studies should include quantitative measurements of eye movements and nystagmus. <![CDATA[<b>Beyond clinical trials: Cross-sectional associations of combination antiretroviral therapy with reports of multiple symptoms and non-adherence among adolescents in South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Studies investigating symptoms associated with combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) use among adolescents in resource-limited settings are rare beyond clinical trials. Identifying adolescents at risk of non-adherence is imperative for HIV/AIDS programming and controlling the epidemic in this key population. OBJECTIVE. To examine which cART regimens were associated with reports of multiple symptoms and past-week non-adherence in a large community-traced sample of HIV-positive adolescents in South Africa (SA). METHODS. A total of 1 175 HIV-positive ART-experienced adolescents aged 10 - 19 years attending 53 health facilities in the Eastern Cape Province, SA, were interviewed in 2014 - 2015. Ninety percent (n=1 059) were included in the study. Adolescents who reported no medication use and those with unclear or missing data were excluded from further analysis, resulting in a sample for analysis of n=501. Outcomes were reports of multiple symptoms (three or more symptoms in the past 6 months) and past-week ART non-adherence (<95% correct doses in the past week). Multivariable logistic regression analyses controlled for sociodemographic and HIV-related covariates in Stata 13/IC. RESULTS. Of the adolescents included, 54.3% were female. The median age was 14 (interquartile range 12 - 16) years, and 66.5% were vertically infected. The prevalence of multiple symptoms was 59.7% (95% confidence interval (CI) 55.3 - 63.9). Independent of covariates, stavudine (d4T)-containing cART regimens and the fixed-dose combination of tenofovir (TDF) + emtricitabine (FTC) + efavirenz (EFV) were associated with more reports of multiple symptoms (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 3.38; 95% CI 1.19 - 9.60 and aOR 2.67; 95% CI 1.21 -5.88, respectively). Lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r)-containing regimens were associated with fewer reports of multiple symptoms (aOR 0.47; 95% CI 0.21 - 1.04). For EFV-based regimens, adolescents on d4T + lamivudine (3TC) + EFV were more likely to report multiple symptoms than those on TDF + FTC + EFV or those on abacavir (ABC) + 3TC + EFV (aOR 3.26; 95% CI 1.01 - 10.52, aOR 2.86; 95% CI 1.35 - 6.05 and aOR 1.08; 95% CI 0.64 - 1.82, respectively). However, only TDF + FTC + EFV cART was associated with lower levels of non-adherence among participants (aOR 0.44; 95% CI 0.21 - 0.93). CONCLUSIONS. Rates of multiple symptoms among HIV-positive ART-experienced adolescents were high. d4T-containing regimens and TDF + FTC + EFV were associated with more reports of multiple symptoms, whereas LPV/r-containing regimens were associated with fewer reports. However, adolescents on TDF + FTC + EFV were the most adherent subgroup. These findings support the World Health Organization-recommended discontinuation of d4T use, but also underscore the dilemma faced by clinicians when choosing between low-toxicity regimens and those that promote ART adherence, particularly among HIV-positive adolescents. <![CDATA[<b>Sensory integration intervention and the development of the premature infant: A controlled trial</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Premature infants are at risk of sensory processing difficulties and developmental delays due to an immature central nervous system and possible episodes of medical instability, discomfort, pain and stress during the first weeks or months after birth. OBJECTIVE. To investigate the effect of Ayres Sensory Integration (ASI) on the development of premature infants in the first 12 months of life. METHODS. A pre-/post-test experimental design was used to randomly divide 24 premature infants from a low socioeconomic setting in Bloemfontein, South Africa, into experimental and control groups after being matched by corrected age and gender. Developmental status was determined with the Bayley III Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, the Test of Sensory Functions in Infants and the Infant/ Toddler Sensory Profile. The experimental group received 10 weeks of ASI intervention. RESULTS. ASI intervention had a positive effect on the sensory processing and development of premature infants, especially in terms of cognitive, language and motor development. CONCLUSIONS. ASI intervention at an early age enhances the developmental progress of premature infants. <![CDATA[<b>Extraspinal osteoarticular multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in children: A case series</b>]]> BACKGROUND. South Africa (SA) is known to have a high disease burden of tuberculosis (TB). Extraspinal osteoarticular multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (ESOA MDR-TB) in children has only been described in a few case reports worldwide. OBJECTIVES. To describe the epidemiology and highlight the potential problem of ESOA MDR-TB infections as seen in children from a single academic hospital in SA. METHODS. A retrospective record review was performed on all children diagnosed with ESOA TB infection at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2015. All patients with a positive TB culture (fluid or tissue) from the surgical site of biopsy (bone or joint) and who were hospitalised were included. Organism culture and drug sensitivity testing were performed. RESULTS. Overall 19 cases of ESOA TB were identified. Areas involved included the shoulder (2 cases), elbow (2 cases), hip (7 cases), knee (4 cases), ankle (3 cases) and humerus (1 case). The mean age of the population was 7.7 (range 2.0 - 14.0) years. The mean white cell count was 11.3 (range 5 - 28.9) × 10(9)/L, the mean C-reactive protein level 53.8 (range 1.0 - 364.0) mg/L and the mean erythrocyte sedimentation rate 35.5 (range 4.0 - 85.0) mm/h. Two cases (10.5%) were MDR, and a further case (5.3%) was resistant to isoniazid only. Four of 12 patients tested positive for HIV. One of the HIV-positive patients was isoniazid resistant. The two positive ESOA MDR-TB cases are discussed in detail. CONCLUSIONS. These findings indicate that ESOA MDR-TB is a reality in this paediatric population (10.5%) and a high index of suspicion should be maintained, especially when cultures are negative in children with signs and symptoms of ESOA TB. The effect of HIV infection on the incidence of ESOA MDR-TB requires further study. <![CDATA[<b>Impact of the learning environment on career intentions of paediatric interns</b>]]> BACKGROUND. High childhood disease burdens in South Africa (SA) prioritise the need for careers in paediatrics. Experiences of junior doctors during internship may influence career trajectories in a direction that is discordant with national health priorities. OBJECTIVE. To explore the influence of the learning environment and demography on career intentions of SA paediatric interns. METHODS. This cross-sectional study involved sampling intern groups at the start and completion of internship in paediatrics to determine their career intentions. A validated version of the Postgraduate Hospital Educational Environmental Measure was used to measure perceptions of the learning environment (LE) in the post-paediatric internship cohort. Measures of the LE in combination with demographic factors were compared with career intentions. Associations were determined by t-tests or analysis of variance and χ² tests. RESULTS. A total sample size of 422 was obtained from two separate cohorts, which were demographically similar except for age. Most interns (88.4%) intended to remain in SA, with 72.6% indicating an intention to practise in the public healthcare sector. There was a high intention to specialise (85.9%), and 60.2% were keen on a career that involved children. Previous educational exposure and demographic factors other than gender did not significantly influence career intentions. Perceptions of the LE significantly influenced decisions to stay in SA's public sector and to care for children. The decision to specialise, however, was not influenced by demographic variables or perceptions of the LE. CONCLUSIONS. Paediatric interns from diverse sociocultural and educational backgrounds had similar career intentions. Most interns were keen to work with children in SA's public sector. However, learning experiences during internship significantly influence these intentions and have the potential to drive young doctors away from SA, its public health service and paediatric care. Ensuring that training and support of interns are optimised is essential if SA is to align its healthcare needs with the aspirations of its future healthcare workers. <![CDATA[<b>Access to and utilisation of healthcare services by sex workers at truck-stop clinics in South Africa: A case study</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Sex worker-specific health services aim to respond to the challenges that this key population faces in accessing healthcare. These services aim to integrate primary healthcare (PHC) interventions, yet most services tend to focus on prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). North Star Alliance (North Star) is a public-private partnership providing a healthcare service package in roadside wellness clinics (RWCs) to at-risk populations along transport corridors in sub-Saharan Africa. OBJECTIVES. To inform future service development for sex workers and describe North Star's contribution to healthcare provision to this population in South Africa, we describe services provided to and utilised by sex workers, and their views of these services. METHODS. Using a mixed-methods approach, we present quantitative analyses of anonymised North Star routine data for sex workers for October 2013 - September 2015, covering nine sites in seven provinces. Clinic visits were disaggregated by type of service accessed. We performed thematic analysis of 25 semi-structured interviews conducted at five clinics. RESULTS. A total of 2 794 sex workers accessed RWCs during the 2 years. Sex workers attending clinics were almost exclusively female (98.2%) and aged <40 years (83.8%). The majority were South African (83.8%), except at Musina, where the majority of clients were Zimbabwean. On average, sex workers visited the clinics 1.5 times per person. However, in most cases only one service was accessed per visit. PHC services other than for HIV and STIs were accessed more commonly than HIV-specific services and STI treatment. There was an increase in the number of services accessed over time, the figure almost doubling from 1 489 during the first year to 2 936 during the second year. Although during recruitment participants reported having had sex in exchange for goods or money during the past 3 months, not all participants self-identified as sex workers during interviews; however, all reported feeling at higher risk of poor health than the general population owing to their involvement in sex work. Participants reported satisfaction with site accessibility, location and operating hours. Sex workers accessing sites described services as being suitable and accessible, with friendly staff. CONCLUSIONS. RWCs were highly appreciated by the users, as they are suitable and accessible. The sex workers who used the clinics visited them irregularly, mostly for PHC services other than HIV and STIs. Services other than the one for which the sex worker came to the clinic rarely appeared to be offered. We recommend areas for service expansion. <![CDATA[<b>Vulvar cancer is not a disease of the elderly: Treatment and outcome at a tertiary referral centre in South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND. An increase in vulvar cancer in young women is attributed to infection with oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV). South Africa (SA) has a high prevalence of HPV, and it was therefore hypothesised that women with vulvar cancer here would be younger than in high-income countries (HICs). OBJECTIVE. To describe age, cancer stage, treatment and outcome of patients with vulvar cancer at a tertiary referral centre in SA. METHODS. In a retrospective observational study, patient records of women diagnosed with vulvar cancer between 2001 and 2014 were reviewed and demographic and surgical details captured. Histology results of vulvar biopsies and resected specimens were checked for HPV changes, koilocytes and usual-type vulval intraepithelial neoplasia. Patients were restaged using the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) 2009 staging system to allow for comparison of outcomes. Five-year disease-specific survival probability curves were generated using Kaplan-Meier analysis. RESULTS. The mean age of the 180 patients in the study was 52.5 years. Those who had documented HPV changes on histological specimens had a mean age of 50.4 years. More than 50% of the patients had advanced-stage disease, and 62.7% were treated with primary surgery. Five-year disease-specific survival probabilities were similar to those reported in the literature. CONCLUSIONS. Vulvar cancer should not be regarded as a disease of the elderly in SA, as women with vulvar cancer are 10 - 15 years younger than in HICs. A large proportion of patients present with advanced-stage disease. Health professionals should be alert to vulvar lesions, especially in women with abnormal Pap smears, to reduce the morbidity and mortality of this disease. <![CDATA[<b>Near-miss maternal morbidity from severe haemorrhage at caesarean section: A process and structure audit of system deficiencies in South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND. A rising caesarean section rate and substandard peri-operative care are believed to be the main reasons for recent increases in maternal deaths from bleeding during and after caesarean section (BDACS) in South Africa (SA). The Donabedian model assumes that clinical outcomes are influenced by healthcare workers and the healthcare system. OBJECTIVES. To evaluate near-miss cases from BDACS with regard to health system structure (resources and facilities) and process (patient care). METHODS. A cross-sectional prospective study was conducted in greater Johannesburg, SA. Data of women who had near-miss-related BDACS were collected by means of ongoing surveillance at 13 public hospitals. The World Health Organization intervention criteria were used to identify near-miss cases. A comparison of structure and process between the healthcare facilities was conducted. RESULTS. Of 20 527 caesarean sections , there were 93 near misses and 7 maternal deaths from BDACS. Dominant risk factors for near misses were previous caesarean section (43.9%), anaemia (25.3%) and pregnancy-induced hypertension (28.6%). Eighteen women were transferred to higher levels of care, and 8 (44.4%) experienced transport delays of >1 hour. The caesarean section decision-to-incision interval (DII) was >60 minutes in 77 of 86 women, with an average interval of 4 hours. Structural deficiencies were frequently present in district hospitals, and there were serious delays in ambulance transfer and DIIs at all levels of care. CONCLUSION. The majority of the women had risk factors for BDACS. There were major ambulance delays and lack of facilities, mostly in district hospitals. All women required life-saving interventions, but could not access appropriate care timeously. Prevention and management of BDACS require a fully functional health system. <![CDATA[<b>Cost awareness among healthcare professionals at a South African hospital: A cross-sectional survey</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Financial cost is a recognised cause of lack of access to adequate healthcare in South Africa (SA). Data describing the SA healthcare professional (HCP)'s awareness of costs are scant. Their increased awareness of healthcare costs may improve efficacy and reduce wasteful expenditure. OBJECTIVE. To assess SA HCP's knowledge of healthcare costs, identify factors that influence cost awareness, and to determine if surveyed HCPs received training related to cost management during their studies or at any stage during their practice. METHODS. This cross-sectional survey was conducted by means of a standardised questionnaire. HCPs working at a major tertiary academic hospital were asked to answer an anonymous standardised questionnaire aimed at determining their awareness of the costs of commonly requested hospital items and tests. Cost accuracy was determined by assessing the log deviation of the estimated cost from true cost, with values &gt;0 and <0 representing overestimates and underestimates, respectively. Cost estimations were considered correct if the absolute value of the log deviation was <0.2. Participants' attitudes towards the potential impact of the availability of cost information on their practice were assessed. RESULTS. The overall cost estimation of accuracy was low (mean 0.60; standard deviation 1.99) and differed widely between items. Cheaper items were more likely to be overestimated and expensive items to be underestimated. The majority of participants indicated that cost awareness education was not part of their training or practice (84.5%) and that they would like cost information to be made readily available (92.2%). Eighty-four percent of participants were of the opinion that cost information would not negatively affect patient care. CONCLUSION. The use of percentage deviation from true cost as a method of assessing cost awareness creates a bias towards overestimation, which is more relevant for cheap items, as larger overestimates are more common for these items. We propose the use of log deviation of the estimated cost from the true cost as a method of assessing cost estimation accuracy. HCPs have a limited understanding of the costs of disposables, tests and drugs commonly used in their practice and would prefer that cost information be made readily available to them. Attention should be paid to improving cost awareness among HCPs working at SA hospitals. <![CDATA[<b>Development and validation of a method to estimate body weight in critically ill children using length and mid-arm circumference measurements: The PAWPER XL-MAC system</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Erroneous weight estimation during the management of emergency presentations in children may contribute to patient harm and poor outcomes. The PAWPER (Paediatric Advanced Weight Prediction in the Emergency Room) XL tape is an accurate length-based, habitus-modified weight estimation device, but is vulnerable to errors if subjective visual assessments of children's body habitus are incorrect or erratic. OBJECTIVE. Mid-arm circumference (MAC) has previously been used as a surrogate indicator of habitus, and the objective of this study was to determine whether MAC cut-off values could be used to predict habitus scores (HSs) to create an objective and standardised weight estimation methodology, the PAWPER XL-MAC method. METHODS. The PAWPER XL-MAC model was developed by creating MAC ranges for each HS in each weight segment of the tape. This model was validated against two samples, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey datasets and data from two previous PAWPER tape studies. The primary outcome measure was to achieve >70% of estimations within 10% of measured weight (PW10 >70%) and >95% within 20% of measured weight (PW20 >95%) for children aged 0 - 18 years. RESULTS. The PAWPER XL-MAC model achieved very high accuracy in the three validation datasets (PW10 79.2%, 79.0% and 81.9%) and a very low critical error rate (PW20 98.5%, 96.0% and 98.0%). This accuracy was maintained across all ages and in all habitus types, except for the severely obese. CONCLUSIONS. The PAWPER XL-MAC model proved to be a very accurate, fully objective, standardised system in this study. It has the potential to be accurate across a wide variety of populations, even when used by those not experienced in visual assessment of habitus. <![CDATA[<b>Endoscopy services in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, are insufficient for the burden of disease: Is patient care compromised?</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Endoscopy services are central to the diagnosis and management of many gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. OBJECTIVE. To evaluate the adequacy of endoscopy services in the public sector hospitals of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, South Africa, in 2016. METHODS. A cross-sectional study was performed using a questionnaire completed by the clinical heads of endoscopy units in the public hospitals in KZN. RESULTS. The heads of 11 of the 12 endoscopy units responded. Two units were in tertiary-level hospitals and nine in regional hospitals. A total of 22 353 endoscopic procedures were performed annually, averaging 2 032 cases per annum per centre; they were performed by 89 endoscopists, of whom 72 (80.1%) were general surgeons. There were 0.06 registered gastroenterologists (GEs) per 100 000 population. Each endoscopist performed an average of 263 endoscopies per annum. There were 1.18 endoscopy rooms available per unit, and two units had on-site fluoroscopy available. The average waiting period for an upper endoscopy was 27 (range 7 - 60) days, for colonoscopy 29 (range 7 - 90) days and for duodenoscopy/endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography 13 (range 4 - 20) days. This included patients with alarm symptoms for GI cancers. Equipment breakages interrupted most services, except for one hospital that had a service contract. Unit heads cited lack of equipment, trained staff and maintenance contracts as major shortcomings. CONCLUSIONS. Endoscopy units in KZN are not adequately equipped to deal with the endoscopy workload and services are plagued by frequent disruptions, which impact negatively on service delivery. There is a need to train more GEs. Patient care is compromised in these public hospitals.