Background: The indirect effects of the Ebola epidemic on health service function may be significant but is not known. The aim of this study was to quantify to what extent admission rates and surgery has changed at health facilities providing such care in Sierra Leone during the time of the Ebola epidemic.
Methods: Weekly data on facility inpatient admissions and surgery from admission and surgical theatre register books were retrospectively retrieved during September and October. 21 Community Health Officers enrolled in a surgical task-shifting program personally visited the facilities. The study period was January 6 (week 2) to October 12, (week 41) 2014.
Results: Data was retrieved from 40 out of 55 facilities. A total of 62,257 admissions and 12,124 major surgeries were registered for the study period.
Total admissions in the week of the first Ebola case were 2,006, median 40 (IQR 20-76) compared to 883, median 12 (IQR 4-30) on the last week of the study. This equals a 70% drop in median number of admissions (p=0.005) between May and October. Total number of major surgeries fell from 342, median 6 (IQR 2-14) to 231, median 3 (IQR 0-6) in the same period, equal 50% reduction in median number of major surgeries (p=0.014).
Conclusions: Inpatient health services have been severely affected by the Ebola outbreak. The dramatic documented decline in facility inpatient admissions and major surgery is likely to be an underestimation. Reestablishing such care is urgent and must be a priority.