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Rwanda gets big boost from Canadian anesthesiologists

The generosity of members from across Canada has allowed the Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society (CAS) to supply pulse oximeters to every operating room in Rwanda.

In a recent release, the CAS said it had surpassed its original goal of providing 250 Lifebox pulse oximeters to hospitals throughout Rwanda, thanks to member donations totalling more than $50,000. Pulse oximetry is used to measure oxygen levels in the blood during surgical procedures.

Many of the machines were distributed in concert with an ambitious education program designed to improve the quality of anesthesia care throughout the African country.

Dr. Jeanne d'Arc Uwambazimana, president of the Rwanda Society of Anesthesiologists (RSA), welcomed both developments. "Anesthetic care for women undergoing cesarean section is particularly challenging at the district hospital level," she said.

The CAS, an affiliate of the CMA, says C-sections are the most common major surgical procedure performed in sub-Saharan Africa, but when anesthesia providers lack training and proper equipment "the likelihood of maternal death on the operating table is high."

The CAS says maternal mortality in Rwanda has been estimated at 540 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with the Canadian rate of 7/100,000.

More than 120 Rwandan anesthesia technicians have been trained through the SAFE Obstetric Anesthesia Course, which was provided by the RSA, CAS International Education Foundation (CAS IEF) and several other groups.

"Safe surgery is crucial for improving our maternal mortality rate, and safe surgery is impossible without safe anesthesia," explained Dr. Angela Enright, a CAS IEF trustee who has also served as president of both the CAS and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFAS).

In supplying the pulse oximeters in Rwanda, the CAS was part of a worldwide campaign led by Lifebox, an organization that includes the WFAS and other groups. The goal is to supply the monitoring machines to the 70,000-plus operating rooms in the developing world that do not have access to them.

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