Here, surgery’s a long way off

Wednesday November 13 2019


A surgery room at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali. Doctors say a shortage of pathologists, radiologists and cardiologists makes it hard to service the patient backlog. PHOTO | FILE 

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Congestion at public hospitals in Kigali is affecting the quality of healthcare in the country, with patients waiting for days or months for surgery due to a biting shortage of specialists.

Officials from the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (Chuk) say that the facility can handle 50,000 inpatients and outpatients per year, but receives more than 150,000 three times its capacity.

Rwanda Today found out that at Chuk and the Rwanda Military Hospital two of Rwanda’s largest public hospitals patients on the surgery list have to wait for about 96 hours before they can get an operation, due to a shortage of specialists.

According to the chairman of the Rwanda Medical and Dental Council Dr Emmanuel Rudakemwa, the congestion is as a result of limited specialists across the country.

He said that the lack of pathologists, radiologists, and cardiologists makes it hard to service the patient backlog.

“There are only seven pathologists and radiologists in the country that are shared by University Teaching Hospital, Rwanda Military Hospital, and King Faisal Hospital.


It is a very small number compared with the number of patients who need these services” said Dr Rudakemwa.

“Every year we train close to 100 general practitioners and 30 specialists in different fields except cardiologists, radiologists and pathologists who are not trained in the country.”

Dr Rudakemwa added that since 2016, the number of medical specialists and general practitioners has risen to 600 and 1,000 respectively, from 650 and 400.

Patient referral is also adding to the problem, with those coming from upcountry district hospitals forced to wait weeks before getting surgery and treatment at Chuk.

“I was given appointments more than ten times to meet the doctor to collect my results but each time I visited the hospital doctors rescheduled my appointment,” a prostate cancer patient told Rwanda Today.

The director-general of Chuk Dr Theobald Hategekimana, confirmed that the facility receives a high number of inpatients but the backlog will be resolved with time as more specialists are trained.

“Once we receive more specialists, they will be distributed in all national teaching and referral, provincial, and district hospitals across the country, hence reducing the number of patients taking long travels to Kigali for treatment,” says Dr Hategekimana.

“It would be useless to have a big operating theatre without enough specialists. The main reason why patients admitted for operations are not treated promptly is because we receive them in high numbers compared with the capacity of the operating theatre and specialist.”