The populations of the East, Central, and Southern African regions receive only a fraction of the surgical procedures they require, and patients are more likely to die after surgery than the global average. An insufficient anesthetic workforce is a key barrier to safe surgery. The anesthetic workforce in this region includes anesthesiologists and nonphysician anesthesia providers. A detailed understanding of the anesthesiologist workforce in East, Central, and Southern Africa is required to devise strategies for the training, retention, and distribution of the workforce.
A cross-sectional study of the anesthesiologist workforce of the 8 member countries of the College of Anaesthesiologists of East, Central, and Southern Africa (CANECSA) was undertaken. Data collection took place between May 2020 and September 2020 using existing databases and was validated through direct contact with anesthesiologists and other hospital staff. Primary outcomes were: total number of anesthesiologists in the region and their demographics, including gender, age, country of practice, current work location, country of origin, and country where they received their initial anesthesia qualification.
Within the CANECSA member countries, 411 qualified anesthesiologists were identified (0.19 per 100,000 population). The median age was 41 years, and one-third were women. The majority (67.5%) were based in urban areas with a population >1 million people, and most are used by government institutions (61.6%). Most anesthesiologists in the region were trained (89.1%) and currently work (95.1%) in their home country.
The numbers of anesthesiologists in CANECSA member countries are extremely low—about 5% of the minimum recommended figures—and poorly distributed relative to the population. Strategies are required to expand the anesthesia workforce and address maldistribution.
- Question: What are the demographic characteristics of the anesthesiologist workforce of East, Central, and Southern Africa?
- Findings: The anesthesiologist workforce can be broadly characterized as young, locally trained, generalist, concentrated in urban areas, majority men but increasingly women, and insufficient in number but growing.
- Meaning: The current anesthesiologist workforce in East, Central, and Southern Africa is insufficient to meet clinical need; strategies to expand the workforce are needed and should focus on increasing the number of locally trained anesthesiologists while also addressing their maldistribution.