Emergency Services Capacity of a Rural Community in Guatemala
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Emergency Services Capacity of a Rural Community in Guatemala


Introduction: Access to emergency care is an essential part of the health system. Improving access to emergency services in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) decreases mortality and reduces global disparities; however, few studies have assessed emergency services resources in LMICs. To guide future improvements in care, we performed a comprehensive assessment of the emergency services capacity of a rural community in Guatemala serving a mostly indigenous population.

Methods: We performed an exhaustively sampled cross-sectional survey of all healthcare facilities providing urgent and emergent care in the four largest cities surrounding Lake Atitlán using the Emergency Services Resource Assessment Tool (ESRAT).

Results: Of 17 identified facilities, 16 agreed to participate and were surveyed: nine private hospitals; four public clinics; and three public hospitals, including the region’s public departmental hospital. All facilities provided emergency services 24/7, and a dedicated emergency unit was available at 67% of hospitals and 75% of clinics. A dedicated physician was present in the emergency unit during the day at 67% of hospitals and 75% of clinics. Hospitals had a significantly higher percentage of available equipment compared to clinics (85% vs 54%, mean difference 31%; 95% confidence interval (CI) 23-37%; P = 0.004). There was no difference in availability of laboratory tests between public and private hospitals or between cities. Private hospitals had access to a significantly higher percentage of medications compared to clinics (56% vs 27%, mean difference 29%; 95% CI 9-49%; P = 0.024).

Conclusion: We found a high availability of emergency services and universal availability of personal protective equipment but a severe shortage of critical medications in clinics, and widespread shortage of pediatric equipment.

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