Pediatric oncology infrastructure and workforce training needs: A report from the pediatric oncology east and Mediterranean (POEM) group

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Background: Inadequate numbers of trained health care providers (HCPs) contribute to poor pediatric oncology (PO) outcomes, particularly in low- and lower middle-income countries (L/LMICs). An understanding of the characteristics of the workforce challenges is vital for addressing these problems.
Methods: The Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean (POEM) Group surveyed PO centers in countries of North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, and Indian subcontinent on infrastructure and workforce capacity, service availability, and training opportunities for HCPs. Participating centers were categorized by the World Bank income levels for their countries and correlated with services, workload and staffing characteristics, and training needs.
Results: Fifty of 82 member centers (61%) from 21 countries responded to the survey. Two hundred ninety-nine pediatric oncologists and 1176 nurses treated 12 496 new PO patients/year, with a 1451-bed utilization. The majority (71%) of new cases occurred in L/LMICs. The availability of HCPs correlated with country income level, as did pediatric subspecialty access, while availability of support services was unrelated. Twenty-five centers in 11 countries offered PO fellowship training for physicians, whereas 13 PO nurse training centers in nine countries had the capacity to train 273 nurses annually. The survey respondents indicated that, among their existing workforce, an average of 3.5 physicians and 14 nurses per institution would benefit from additional PO training opportunities.
Conclusions: The participating centers exhibited intraregional heterogeneity in financial resources, infrastructure, workload, workforce, and medical services. Our findings provide insight into the disparities and regional resources available to POEM, which can be mobilized to rectify specific deficiencies.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

Pediatric Blood & Cancer