By Eddie Ssejjoba
Mulago National Referral Hospital is scheduled to start carrying out kidney transplants and other organs in what the doctors described as a major breakthrough in the provision of super-specialized health care in Uganda.
The hospital director, Dr. Baterana Byarugaba said by October, the hospital will carry out its first kidney transplant, beginning with the 65 patients undergoing dialysis.
The surgeries, according to the director, will be free to all patients once the hospital is fully facilitated by the government.
In addition, the hospital will be in position to carry out transplants of other organs like the heart and lungs.
Dr. Byarugaba made the disclosure at a press briefing at the hospital after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with a team of medical specialists and other administrators from Yashoda Hospital, an Indian centre for excellence in kidney and other transplants.
Dr. V. Vishnu Reddy, chief operating officer and chief consultant Anaesthesiologist, Yashoda Hospital sign an MoU with Dr. Baterana Byarugaba, the director Mulago Hospital. PHOTO/ Eddie Ssejjoba
Already, a team of 15 specialists from Mulago Hospital comprising of urologists, nephrologists, nurses and other supporting staff have been selected and will be attached to Yashoda Hospitals for a three-month intensive training on all aspects of kidney transplant program.
“By Independence this year (October 9) we shall have the first kidney transplant here. Currently, we have 65 patients undergoing dialysis and naturally these would have to transit to kidney transplant,” Dr. Byarugaba said.
Mulago Hospital, according to Dr. Byarugaba, has never had kidney transplants and has been referring patients to South Africa, United Kingdom and other countries. With the opening up of such services, the hospital will reduce the referrals.
A kidney transplant outside Uganda costs between USD7,000 and 22,000 for surgery alone minus flight, feeding and other costs.
“Once Mulago starts the transplants, the costs will range between 00 to shs 6m, depending on how much the government will put in to facilitate the services.”
“It is obvious at least in the medical sense that someone cannot be on dialysis for the rest of his/her life.
That is why we have to do everything within our reach and with the support of our friends, to initiate a process of kidney transplant here at Mulago Hospital,” Dr. Byarugaba explained.
He said it would take a patient two to three months after surgery to return to work unlike those who can manage costs abroad, one undergoes dialysis almost for life.
“Kidney transplant saves the country huge costs of buying consumables and other medical costs needed in treating patients, who in many instances are weak and unable to remain productive,” he said.
He said priority would be given to the poor and needy people who suffer from kidney failure.
“The services will be fully sponsored by government but if we find it very expensive and short of funding, then we shall have to ask some patients to contribute,” Dr. Byarugaba explained adding that similar arrangements have been done by neighbouring countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and others.
He said the hospital was optimistic that the team of specialists that are going to train at Yashoda Hospital will acquire the required skills and will be in position to handle all cases.
“We have enough doctors who are going to be trained to improve their skills, when they come back they will handle all cases locally,” he stressed.
The renal unit at Mulago Hospital currently offers 30 sessions of patients on dialysis per day of 45 cycles per month.
This, according to Dr. Byarugaba has been attained after putting up a renal unit and increased dialysis machines from two to 22.
The MoU gives closer collaboration between Mulago and Yashoda Hospitals in areas of joint training, sharing experts, neurosurgery training, collaboration in the field of research and other areas.
Dr. Vishnu Reddy, a chief operating officer and chief consultant anaesthesiologist from Yashoda Hospital said that it would be cheaper for Mulago hospital to carry out kidney transplants than continue patients on dialysis.
“The transplant will improve the quality of life of a particular patient that has been in dialysis, he/she will be more productive and can go back to support his or her family once undergoes transplant,” he stressed adding that Yoshida offers the cheapest transplants in India.
The doctors from Yashoda have also carried out a number of arteriovenous (AV) operations on a number of patients at the Renal Unit in Mulago hospital and were scheduled to work on several other patients, who automatically qualify for transplant.
Derrick Mutebi, one of the patients said he needed USD30,000 (sh75m) for a transplant and needs a donor as well.
Other patients who included, Annet Tukamushaba and Ernest Mugisha also said they did not have the money for a transplant abroad and were happy with the news that Mulago would soon providing the services locally.