Lifebox Australia and New Zealand (Lifebox ANZ)

Lifebox Australia and New Zealand (Lifebox ANZ) was registered in 2015 by four of Lifebox’s partners – the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), the Australian Society of Anaesthetists (ASA), Interplast Australia & New Zealand (Interplast), and the New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists (NZSA). This consortium of partners work to strengthen anesthesia and surgical safety in the Asia-Pacific region through raising funds and implementing projects – such as pulse oximetry distribution and training. 


All of us will have a moment in our lives when either we, or a loved-one, need surgery. Whether it’s due to an accident, illness or giving birth – many of us will take this access to safe surgery as a given.

This is not true for the vast majority of our world’s population. Globally, five billion people lack access to safe surgery.

Surgical teams across low- and middle-income countries face significant challenges in providing the best possible quality care to their patients. Either from a lack of adequate training or resources, the risk of death following surgery in some parts of the world can be 22 times higher than in a high-income country like Australia or New Zealand. Despite the scale of the global surgery crisis, Lifebox is the only NGO dedicated to making surgery and anesthesia safer in low-resource contexts.

Lifebox was launched in 2011 with the simple aim of providing pulse oximeters to operating rooms that lacked this critical monitoring device. A pulse oximeter is the only piece of equipment included on the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist and yet, at Lifebox’ s launch, it was estimated that 77,000 operating rooms around the world lacked this essential piece of medical equipment. The Lifebox pulse oximeter has been specifically designed for use in low-resource settings – with robust construction and rechargeable batteries that stay on even when the power fails. To date, more than 26,500 Lifebox pulse oximeters have been distributed to anesthesia providers around the world for vital patient monitoring.

Lifebox’s  area of work has now expanded across three core pillars of safer surgery – improving anesthesia safety, reducing surgical infection rates, and strengthening surgical teamwork. By working alongside local partners, Lifebox provides the training and tools needed to save lives through safer surgery. All of this work is rooted in the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist – a simple communication tool that has been proven to reduce complications and deaths from unsafe surgery by up to 40%. It has been ten years since the development of the Checklist and it remains a transformational force in the global surgery movement.

“It is not enough to say we are just doing surgery. If it’s not safe surgery with proper quality, then we’re doing nobody any good. Our focus and mission is to assure that when patients have that surgery, that it’s safe and that it’s effective.”
Atul Gawande, Lifebox Co-Founder and Chair

Lifebox ANZ has supported safer surgery and anesthesia projects in Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and most recently in Bangladesh.

“After doing this course,I know how to use pulse oximeters. I have learnt what hypoxia is – before giving anaesthesia, the Sp02 is 95. If it is 94% I will manage the hypoxia. If I maintain the surgical checklist in the theatre, I will protect the patient and ensure it is the right operation and the right side of the patient. This course was very useful, all technicians and anaesthesiologists should be given this training course.”
Dr Bullet, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Lifebox Workshop

Whilst to date Australia and New Zealand have been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lifebox ANZ has pivoted its activities to support Lifebox’s response to this global health emergency. Lifebox has adapted and developed tools and strategies for healthcare providers on the frontline to continue to provide safe surgical and COVID-19 care.

Pulse oximetry has been at the heart of this response – with more than 6,500 oximeters distributed to frontline providers for the detection and care of COVID-19 patients. We’ve also worked to reduce the risk of infection to surgical teams – developing the COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklistproviding PPE and guidelines for its safe reuse in low-resource settings. And we’re fostering innovations that tackle COVID-19 with partners like N95Decon and the Ethiopia COVID-19 response team. Underpinning this work is Lifebox’s webinar series with clinical leaders in surgery, obstetrics and anesthesia providing perspectives and guidance from frontline providers.

“Lifebox ANZ is supporting Lifebox’s COVID-19 response, with the distribution of pulse oximeters and resources to health care providers across the Pacific. Pulse oximeters are essential for the detection and ongoing care of COVID-19 patients. We are hugely proud of this work to support patient care during the pandemic.”
Cameron Glover, CEO Interplast Australia & New Zealand.

Lifebox ANZ is supporting the COVID-19 response with the distribution of 100 pulse oximeters across Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, and elsewhere for frontline use. Pulse oximeters are a crucial tool in the detection and triage of COVID-19 patients. “Silent hypoxia” has been a defining feature of the disease, with patients slowly starving of oxygen without the usual shortness of breath that would see them seek care. By the time many COVID-19 patients are having trouble breathing – they are already critically ill. The best tool to detect these patients is a pulse oximeter.

“Thank you to Lifebox ANZ for their continued support during our response to COVID-19. Surgical teams around the world continue to provide life-saving surgeries during this pandemic. Lifebox’s priority is to ensure that our partner healthcare providers have the tools and resources they need to keep themselves and their patients safe.”
Kris Torgeson, Lifebox Global CEO

Over the next year Lifebox ANZ will continue its work to improve the safety of surgery and anesthesia with oximetry distributions and training for anesthesia providers in Laos.

To support this vital work and ensure healthcare providers have the tools they need to save lives in COVID-19 donate and select Lifebox from the menu.


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