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Open Access Research article

Emergency and critical care services in Tanzania: a survey of ten hospitals

Tim Baker12*, Edwin Lugazia3, Jaran Eriksen4, Victor Mwafongo3, Lars Irestedt12 and David Konrad12

Author affiliations

1 Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Section for Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Anaesthesia, Intensive Care and Surgical Services, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, 171 76, Sweden

3 Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

4 Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:140  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-140

Published: 16 April 2013



While there is a need for good quality care for patients with serious reversible disease in all countries in the world, Emergency and Critical Care tends to be one of the weakest parts of health systems in low-income countries. We assessed the structure and availability of resources for Emergency and Critical Care in Tanzania in order to identify the priorities for improving care in this neglected specialty.


Ten hospitals in four regions of Tanzania were assessed using a structured data collection tool. Quality was evaluated with standards developed from the literature and expert opinion.


Important deficits were identified in infrastructure, routines and training. Only 30% of the hospitals had an emergency room for adult and paediatric patients. None of the seven district and regional hospitals had a triage area or intensive care unit for adults. Only 40% of the hospitals had formal systems for adult triage and in less than one third were critically ill patients seen by clinicians more than once daily. In 80% of the hospitals there were no staff trained in adult triage or critical care. In contrast, a majority of equipment and drugs necessary for emergency and critical care were available in the hospitals (median 90% and 100% respectively. The referral/private hospitals tended to have a greater overall availability of resources (median 89.7%) than district/regional hospitals (median 70.6).


Many of the structures necessary for Emergency and Critical Care are lacking in hospitals in Tanzania. Particular weaknesses are infrastructure, routines and training, whereas the availability of drugs and equipment is generally good. Policies to improve hospital systems for the care of emergency and critically ill patients should be prioritised.

Emergency medicine; Critical care; Health services; Quality of health care; Developing countries; Africa; Tanzania; Triage