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Original Investigation
September 2016

Results of a Nationwide Capacity Survey of Hospitals Providing Trauma Care in War-Affected Syria

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, Paris, France
  • 3Department of Neurology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
JAMA Surg. 2016;151(9):815-822. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2016.1297

Importance  The Syrian civil war has resulted in large-scale devastation of Syria’s health infrastructure along with widespread injuries and death from trauma. The capacity of Syrian trauma hospitals is not well characterized. Data are needed to allocate resources for trauma care to the population remaining in Syria.

Objective  To identify the number of trauma hospitals operating in Syria and to delineate their capacities.

Design, Setting, and Participants  From February 1 to March 31, 2015, a nationwide survey of 94 trauma hospitals was conducted inside Syria, representing a coverage rate of 69% to 93% of reported hospitals in nongovernment controlled areas.

Main Outcomes  Identification and geocoding of trauma and essential surgical services in Syria.

Results  Although 86 hospitals (91%) reported capacity to perform emergency surgery, 1 in 6 hospitals (16%) reported having no inpatient ward for patients after surgery. Sixty-three hospitals (70%) could transfuse whole blood but only 7 (7.4%) could separate and bank blood products. Seventy-one hospitals (76%) had any pharmacy services. Only 10 (11%) could provide renal replacement therapy, and only 18 (20%) provided any form of rehabilitative services. Syrian hospitals are isolated, with 24 (26%) relying on smuggling routes to refer patients to other hospitals and 47 hospitals (50%) reporting domestic supply lines that were never open or open less than daily. There were 538 surgeons, 378 physicians, and 1444 nurses identified in this survey, yielding a nurse to physician ratio of 1.8:1. Only 74 hospitals (79%) reported any salary support for staff, and 84 (89%) reported material support. There is an unmet need for biomedical engineering support in Syrian trauma hospitals, with 12 fixed x-ray machines (23%), 11 portable x-ray machines (13%), 13 computed tomographic scanners (22%), 21 adult (21%) and 5 pediatric (19%) ventilators, 14 anesthesia machines (10%), and 116 oxygen cylinders (15%) not functional. No functioning computed tomographic scanners remain in Aleppo, and 95 oxygen cylinders (42%) in rural Damascus are not functioning despite the high density of hospitals and patients in both provinces.

Conclusions and Relevance  Syrian trauma hospitals operate in the Syrian civil war under severe material and human resource constraints. Attention must be paid to providing biomedical engineering support and to directing resources to currently unsupported and geographically isolated critical access surgical hospitals.