A study of 430 hospitals in the developing world found that more than one-third lacked running water, a deficiency that can lead to unsanitary conditions for patients in general and dangerous conditions for those who need surgery.
The research, led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published online in the Journal of Surgical Research, points to larger deficiencies in the health care systems in many of the world’s low- and middle-income countries and highlights the need to focus on basic infrastructure in order to prevent the spread of disease and improve health outcomes there.
“Running water is something we so take for granted and it doesn’t exist in a third of hospitals in these countries,” says one of the study’s leaders, Dr. Adam L. Kushner, an adjunct professor at the Bloomberg School. “Instead of water just being there, some hospitals truck in water or collect it in rain barrels, with no guarantee of its cleanliness. Without clean water, there is no way to clean surgeons’ hands or instruments, wash gowns and sheets or clean wounds to prevent or reduce infections.”
For their study, the researchers analyzed published research related to surgical capacity in low- and middle-income countries. They identified 19 surgical capacity studies undertaken between 2009 and 2015 that included information on water availability covering 430 hospitals in 19 nations. They found that 147 of the 430 hospitals lacked continuous running water (34 percent). These ranged from less than 20 percent with running water in Liberia to more than 90 percent in Bangladesh and Ghana.