This study investigates patients’ access to surgical care for burns in a low-and-middle-income setting by studying timeliness, surgical capacity, and affordability. A survey was conducted in a regional referral hospital in Manyara, Tanzania. In total, 67 patients were included. To obtain information on burn victims in need of surgical care, irrespective of time lapsed from the burn injury, both patients with burn wounds and patients with contractures were included. Information provided by patients and/or caregivers was supplemented with data from patient files and interviews with hospital administration and physicians. In the burn wound group, 50 percent reached a facility within 24 hours after the injury. Referrals from other health facilities to the regional referral hospital were made within three weeks for 74 percent in this group. Of contracture patients, seventy four percent, had sought healthcare after the acute burn injury. Of the same group, only 4 percent had been treated with skin grafts beforehand, and 70 percent never received surgical care or a referral. Combined, both groups indicated that lack of trust, surgical capacity, and referral timeliness were important factors negatively impacting patient access to surgical care. Accounting for hospital fees indicated patients routinely exceeded the catastrophic expenditure threshold. It was determined that healthcare for burn victims is without financial risk protection. We recommend strengthening burn care and reconstructive surgical programs in similar settings, using a more comprehensive health systems approach to identify and address both medical and socio-economic factors that determine patient mortality and disability.

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