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Task shifting of emergency caesarean section in south Ethiopia: are we repeating the brain drain

  • Asefa, Anteneh1, 2
  • Morgan, Alison2
  • Hailemariam, Tadesse3
  • Shiferaw, Mekonnen4
  • Mekonnen, Emebet4
  • Birhan, Yifru5
  • 1 School of Public Health, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Hawassa University, Hawassa, Ethiopia,
  • 2 Nossal Institute for Global Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia,
  • 3 United Nations Population Fund, SNNPR Office, Hawassa, Ethiopia,
  • 4 Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional Health Bureau, Hawassa, Ethiopia,
  • 5 Federal Ministry of Health, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Published Article
Pan African Medical Journal
Pan African Medical Journal
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2020
DOI: 10.11604/pamj.2020.36.145.19330
PMID: 32874409
PMCID: PMC7436639
PubMed Central


Introduction preventable mortality from complications which arise during pregnancy and childbirth continue to claim more than a quarter of million women´s lives every year, almost all in low- and middle-income countries. However, lifesaving emergency obstetric services, including caesarean section (CS), significantly contribute to prevention of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity. Between 2009 and 2013, a task shifting intervention to train caesarean section (CS) teams involving 41 CS surgeons, 35 anesthetic nurses and 36 scrub nurses was implemented in 13 hospitals in southern Ethiopia. We report on the attrition rate of those upskilled to provide CS with a focus on the medium-term outcomes and the challenges encountered. Methods a cross-sectional study involving surveys of focal persons and a facility staff audit supplemented with a review of secondary data was conducted in thirteen hospitals. Mean differences were computed to appreciate the difference between numbers of CSs conducted for the six months before and after task shifting commenced. Results from the trained 112 professionals, only 52 (46.4%) were available for carrying out CS in the hospitals. CS surgeons (65.9%) and nurse anesthetists (71.4%) are more likely to have left as compared to scrub nurses (22.2%). Despite the loss of trained staff, there was an increase in the number of CSs performed after the task shifting (mean difference=43.8; 95% CI: 18.3-69.4; p=0.003). Conclusion our study, one of the first to assess the medium-term effects of task shifting highlights the risk of ongoing attrition of well-trained staff and the need to reassess strategies for staff retention.

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