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Delays, fears and training needs: Perspectives of health workers on clinical management of snakebite revealed by a qualitative study in Kitui County, Kenya

Barnes, Kieran, Ngari, Cecelia, Parkurito, Stanley, Wood, Leo, Otundo, Denis, Harrison, Robert, Oluoch, George O., Trelfa, Anna and Baker, Clare (2021) 'Delays, fears and training needs: Perspectives of health workers on clinical management of snakebite revealed by a qualitative study in Kitui County, Kenya'. Toxicon: X, Vol 11, p. 100078.

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Key aims of the WHO Strategy to halve snakebite morbidity and mortality include health system strengthening and training of health workers. This requires knowledge of local health system needs and capacity, health worker training needs, and factors influencing health worker decision-making in snakebite management. This study explored health worker experiences and perceptions of snakebite management, both individually and in the context of their local health system.

We used a qualitative study design with semi-structured interviews (n = 14) and focus group discussions (n = 4). We employed a combination of sampling strategies aiming to achieve maximum variation among key informants within resource limitations. We recruited health workers (n = 33) of varying roles from purposively selected tier 2, 3 and 4 health facilities (n = 12) and the community (tier 1) in four sub-counties in Kitui County, Kenya. We conducted inductive thematic analysis of all transcripts.

The results identified that health workers recognised snake envenoming as a time-critical emergency in which delay in care seeking, sometimes exacerbated by health system referral delays, was a major barrier to effective management of patients. Clinicians strongly voiced a need for training in snakebite management, diagnosis and antivenom administration. Unexpressed needs for training were demonstrated in traditional remedy ineffectiveness, syndromic management, and critical appraisal of treatment effectiveness. Under-resourcing in antivenom, other medication, equipment, infrastructure and staffing also challenged management. Fear of snakebite and fear of antivenom, both linked to past experiences, influenced clinical decision-making.

Our findings clearly indicate a need in Kitui County for training programmes that equip health workers for clinical decision-making in snakebite management. We further identify community intervention needs to facilitate prompt presentation to healthcare, including practical affordable transport solutions, and systematic health system resourcing needs. In addition, we recommend supportive supervision and further research in response to the emotional stress resulting from managing difficult cases in under-resourced settings.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 21 Medicine as a profession.
W General Medicine. Health Professions > Health Services. Patients and Patient Advocacy > W 84.4 Quality of Health Care
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
WD Disorders of Systemic, Metabolic or Environmental Origin, etc > Animal Poisons > WD 410 Reptiles
Faculty: Department: Biological Sciences > Department of Tropical Disease Biology
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Cathy Waldron
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2021 11:59
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 11:59


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