By: 30 September 2016
WCA 2016: the unforgettable World Congress of Anaesthesiologists

A review of the WCA 2016 by the WFSA

The WFSA and the SAHK were proud to co-host the 16th World Congress of Anaesthesiologists (WCA) in Hong Kong in September 2016. The incredible event took place over five days with over six thousand delegates from 134 countries coming together. It is almost impossible to pinpoint all of the incredible events and opportunities that arose at the WCA, but here are our top five highlights…

The enthusiasm of our international scholars

We were particularly pleased to welcome our 51 international scholars who came from every part of the globe and were extremely enthusiastic to learn, and will take those lessons back to their home countries for the benefit of their colleagues and patients.

Dr Selesia Fifita, anaesthetist in Tonga and WCA scholar, explained: “I’ve enjoyed meeting people from other countries and seeing what their experiences are like. It’s good that we see other people are experiencing the same things we are [in the Pacific Islands].”

Dr Fifita’s words go to the heart of why the WFSA offers scholarships to the WCA and to regional congresses. It is by sharing experiences that young anaesthetists are able to think more widely about approaches to anaesthesia care, and share this knowledge within their own countries to the benefit of their patients.

Partnerships to tackle the surgical care crisis

With 5 billion people around the world without access to safe and affordable anaesthesia and surgery when needed, it is not possible for one organisation to tackle the problem alone. At the Opening Ceremony Dr David Wilkinson, WFSA President 2012 – 2016, announced that Masimo and Laerdal Foundation would be the WFSA’s first Global Impact Partners.

Global Impact Partners work with the WFSA and other stakeholders to plan and implement anaesthesia patient safety programmes in a particular country, or countries, where access to safe anaesthesia is particularly limited.

Laerdal will focus on SAFE training in obstetric anaesthesia, whilst Masimo will focus on country level development of Anaesthesia Safety Action Plans (ASAP). Below Joe Kiani, founder, Chairman and CEO of Masimo, shares his excitement about the project.

By working closely with the National Society of Anaesthesiologists and other key stakeholders, Global Impact Partnerships allow us to work more strategically towards improving patient outcomes and saving lives.

Two keynote lecturers to remember

The incredible Harold Griffith Keynote Lectures given by Dr Atul Gawande and Tore Laerdal were another highlight of the Congress. Both speakers focused on their personal histories and how that has shaped their understanding of anaesthesia in a modern, global context in what was a thrilling session.

Tore Laerdal, Executive Director of the Laerdal Foundation, founder and leader of Laerdal Global Health, and Chairman of Laerdal Medical, gave a fascinating history of the company, including how his father had saved him from a near drowning as a 2-year-old, and how this had inspired him to use his skills as a toy maker to develop life size dolls for children and later full sized manikins to help train Norwegian healthcare workers and the general public in lifesaving techniques.

He talked of a key moment in his own career: during a visit to rural hospitals in Tanzania in 2008 where he witnessed two newborns dying, and his realisation that better trained birth attendants and equipment could have saved their lives.

Dr Atul Gawande similarly discussed his father’s upbringing in a village in rural India, where much of his family still lives. He discussed the economic development that has gradually improved living standards in India, allowing some people to afford private health insurance and driving the development and expansion of hospital services in the biggest town nearby.

He considered how the world will ever manage to close the gaps we have in capacity to deliver a service as complex as surgical care. “People think that it’s about having enough expertise—anaesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses,” he said. “But it is much more than this—it requires somehow building infrastructure, procurement systems, management. And yet as economies grow, numerous countries have managed to do it.”

Gawande then pointed out, that although anaesthesia and surgery are considered expensive, the World Bank’s report Disease Control Priorities team (DCP-3 Essential Surgery) found that investment in first-level hospital capacity for 44 essential surgical procedures (including C-section, laparotomy, and fracture repair) is among the most cost-effective health interventions available.

Safe Anaesthesia For Everybody – Today! The SAFE-T Launch

The WCA also saw the launch of the Safe Anaesthesia For Everybody – Today “SAFE-T” campaign: made up of the SAFE-T Network and Consortium, bringing individuals, organisations and industry together to advance patient safety and the International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anaesthesia.

The goal of the SAFE-T Network is to raise awareness of the need for safe anaesthesia as an essential element of safe surgery, the lack of provision, and the need to take action, by advocating together and gathering data to “map the gap” in access to safe anaesthesia.

It is by mapping this gap in Actual Provision vs. the International Standards that we can provide strong evidence to Ministries of Health,other governmental bodies and decision makers to ensure more is being done to close the gap.

We asked those who took a photograph in our SAFE-T photobooth to give a small donation, which was then generously match funded by Teleflex.

All anaesthesiologists should join the SAFE-T Network. If you have not yet joined please click here.

Bringing together the international anaesthesia community

It was the international feel of the WCA that was perhaps the Congress’ biggest success. The breadth and depth of the Scientific Programme was testament to the engagement of a range of speakers from across specialties and from different parts of the world. We simply would not have been able to achieve such success without the engagement, positivity and generosity of all who attended.