South African Journal of Surgery
On-line version ISSN 2078-5151
BACKGROUND: While disorders such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, gastrointestinal (GI) cancers and inflammatory bowel disease are prevalent among all racial groups in the Western Cape, there is little knowledge of local GI service provision. The state of equipment, facilities and staffing is largely unrecorded and to date unknown. The aim of this study was to audit the availability of GI facilities in the provincial sector, which provides care for the majority of people in the Western Cape. METHOD: All hospitals in the Western Cape providing en-doscopy were evaluated by means of a hands-on audit, to identify available organisational infrastructure. Data including staffing, details and utilisation of existing equipment, maintenance and disinfection techniques and delays in service provision were collected. RESULTS: Over a period of 12 months, 17 Western Cape hospitals were visited: 3 tertiary, 5 regional and 9 district-level institutions. There are currently 89 GI endoscopes in state service, with an average age of 6.1 years (range 1 - 23 years). While most institutions utilise video endoscopy, in many instances equipment is near the end of its economic life. A total of 26 434 endoscopic procedures were performed over a 12-month period. Overall at least 60% of all adult endos-copy was undertaken at tertiary institutions. The mean delay from consultation until gastroscopy or colonoscopy was 9.25 weeks (range 0.5 - 28 weeks) and 8 weeks (range 1 - 20 weeks), respectively. Only 1 tertiary and 1 regional hospital employed fully trained, registered nurses, and the majority of institutions did not conform to internationally accepted standards for the maintenance and disinfection of endoscopic equipment. CONCLUSION: While endoscopy equipment is widely distributed throughout the province, it is evident from this study that services in the Western Cape fall short of international standards, with delays in endoscopic provision, lack of adequate equipment, inadequate scope maintenance and disinfection and a shortage of trained staff. As such, much of the population reliant on state facilities has poor access to GI health care. These deficiencies need to be addressed.