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Variation in access to pediatric surgical care among coexisting public and private providers: inguinal hernia as a model

Ayman Al-Jazaeri, Lama Alshwairikh, Manar A. Aljebreen, Nourah AlSwaidan, Tarfah Al-Obaidan, Abdulrahman Alzahem

From the Department of Surgery, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

How to cite this article:

Al-Jazaeri A, Alshwairikh L, Aljebreen MA, AlSwaidan N, Al-Obaidan T, Alzahem A. Variation in access to pediatric surgical care among coexisting public and private providers: inguinal hernia as a model. Ann Saudi Med 2017; 37(4): 290-296.

DOI: 10.5144/0256-4947.2017.290


BACKGROUND: Faced with growing healthcare demand, the Saudi government is increasingly relying on privatization as a tool to improve patient access to care. Variation in children’s access to surgical care between public (PB) and private providers (PV) has not been previously analyzed. 


OBJECTIVES: To compare access to pediatric surgical services between two coexisting PB and PV. 


DESIGN: Retrospective comparative study. 


SETTINGS: A major teaching hospital and the largest PV group in Saudi Arabia. 


PATIENTS AND METHODS: The outcomes for children who underwent inguinal herniotomy (IH) between May 2010 and December 2014 at both providers were with IH serving as the model. Data collected included patient demographics, insurance coverage, referral pattern and access parameters including time-to-surgery (TTS), surgery wait time (SWT) and duration of symptoms (DOS). 




RESULTS: Of 574 IH cases, 56 cases of in-hospital referrals were excluded leaving 290 PB and 228 PV cases. PV patients were younger (12.0 vs 16.4 months, P=.043) and more likely to be male (81.6% vs 72.8%, P=.019), expatriates (18% vs 3.4%, P<.001) and insured (47.4% vs 0%, P<.001). The emergency department was more frequently the source for PB referrals (35.2% vs 12.7%, P<.001) while most PV patients were self-referred (72.8% vs 16.7%, P<.001). Access parameters were remarkably better at PV: TTS (21 vs 66 days, P<.001), SWT (4 vs 31 days, P<.001) and DOS (33 vs 114 days, P<.001).


CONCLUSION: When coexisting, PV offers significantly better access to pediatric surgical services compared to PB. Diverting public funds to expand children’s access to PV can be a valid choice to improve access to care in case when outcomes with the two providers are similar. 


LIMITATIONS: Although it is the first and largest comparison in the pediatric population, the sample may not represent the whole population since it is confined to a single selected surgical condition. 


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