Sidu Biai, Amabelia Rodrigues, Melba Gomes, Isabela Ribeiro, Morten Sodemann, Fernanda Alves, Peter Aaby
Objective: To test whether strict implementation of a standardized protocol for the management of malaria and provision of a financial incentive for health workers reduced mortality.
Design: Randomized controlled intervention trial.
Setting: Pediatric ward at the national hospital in Guinea-Bissau. All children admitted to hospital with severe malaria received free drug kits.
Participants: 951 children aged 3 months to 5 years admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of malaria randomized to normal or intervention wards.
Interventions: Before the start of the study, all personnel were trained in the use of the standardized guidelines for the management of malaria, including strict follow-up procedures. Nurses and doctors were randomized to work on intervention or control wards. Personnel in the intervention ward received a small financial incentive ($50 (£25; €35)/month for nurses and $160 for doctors) and their compliance with standard case management was closely monitored.
Main outcome measures: In-hospital mortality and cumulative mortality within 4 weeks of hospital admission.
Results: In-hospital mortality was 5% for the intervention group and 10% in the control group (risk ratio 0.48, 95% confidence interval 0.29 to 0.79). The effect may have been stronger in patients with positive malaria slides (0.36, 0.16 to 0.80). Cumulative mortality 4 weeks after discharge was also lower in the intervention group (0.61, 0.40 to 0.95).
Conclusions: Supervising healthcare workers to adhere to a standardized treatment protocol was associated with greatly reduced in-hospital mortality. Financial incentives may be important for the dedication and compliance of staff members.
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