Limited surgeons pushes patients to hospitals abroad

Monday May 18 2020


A surgery room at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali. King Faisal Hospital is one of the two biggest public hospitals facing off in court over a botched medical procedure that led to a woman losing a breast. PHOTO | FILE 

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Llimited number of cardiothoracic surgeons, nurses and anaesthesia experts is making it difficult for a few available cardiothoracic surgeons to handle all the cases.

Earlier in an interview with Dr Edgar Kalimba, acting chief executive of King Faisal Hospital (KFH) said there is a need for more cardiothoracic surgeons to operate the increasing number of rheumatic heart disease patients in the country.

“We only have one Rwandan cardiothoracic surgeon who can operate one rheumatic heart disease patients per day and this would take years if we are to treat all patients requiring the service,” he said.

“We have a well-established specialised hospital with at least necessary equipments for specialised doctors to operate several complicated surgeries, but limited local experts who could be affordable to hire makes it difficult to provide specialised services as required,” he said.

In addition, Dr Kalimba said the service is not offered on Mituelle de santé, the universal health insurance which is affordable to over 80 per cent of Rwandan citizens.

He said the hospital has noted that increasing number of rheumatic heart disease cases in the country is because the majority of people do not seek treatment since they cannot afford the cost even when they are sure of having the condition.


This implies that even if the experts to provide the services are increased without making sure that the service is offered on the Universal Health Insurance, the majority will still not afford to access the treatment at the hospital.

Dr Kalimba, however, said there is a step taken in ensuring that they treat rheumatic heart disease patients, where today at King Faisal hospital they can operate two patients of the condition per day.

But the cost is still very high since many people suffering from the disease are those from vulnerable families in the country.

Treatment with surgery inclusive locally costs between Rwf9,300,000 and Rwf13,950,000,” Dr Kalimba said. Dr Maurice Musoni, only Rwanda’s cardiothoracic surgeon, said with time as they advance in work they will be able to save the lives of many RHD patients who have been seeking treatment abroad.

“We cannot be certain that all the patients in the country who need openheart surgery will be operated in a specified time, but those who will afford to reach out at KFH will be treated,” he said. This year, Team Heart, a US-base charity group of surgeons, earlier told Rwanda Today that will conduct four mentorship trips to Rwanda this year to prepare the Rwandan team to be confident enough to do the surgeries on their own than before where they have been coming once in a year.

Division manager for non-communicable diseases and Heart Diseases at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr François Uwikindi, said that the government has plans to establish a cardiac centre at KFH to reduce the burden of cardiac diseases in the country to build the capacity.

Rwanda Today has learnt that in February this year eight Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) patients underwent subsidized heart surgery, courtesy of the King Faisal Hospital (KFH) and Team Heart.

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a damage to one or more heart valves that remain after an episode of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is resolved.

It either occurs when blood flows backwards through stretched valves that do not close properly or blocked due to scarred valves not opening properly. RHD causes heart failure and those affected are at risk of arrhythmias, stroke, endocarditis, and complications of pregnancy.