The era of patients being referred to hospitals abroad could come to an end if a proposal by the Ministry of Health to create a specialised unit to, among other things, carry out kidney transplants in-country is realised.
Dr Byarugaba Baterana, the executive director at Mulago hospital, revealed to MPs that the hospital could be ready to carry out its first kidney transplant in October.
Presenting the 2014/2015 budget estimates to Parliament’s Committee on Health on Monday, line minister Ruhakana Rugunda revealed that part of its Shs1.1 trillion proposed budget will be used to set up these specialised units in major hospitals.
“At the moment, the country is spending a lot of resources to refer patients to India, South Africa, U.K and the Middle East, including government and private entities. We are trying, therefore, to upgrade facilities and equipment at Mulago and also other referral centres like Gulu, Mbarara and Soroti.
The purpose is to ensure that patients who are going abroad will be able to get treatment locally,” Dr Rugunda said.
Although the minister did not specify how much will be allocated to the plans, he explained that the process will be phased, with the government hoping to ship in equipment annually.
“We are increasing the capacity to diagnose by providing specialised equipment and with this, we have the personnel and are upgrading the skills of these specialists. Although there are a number of challenges, the health specialists are doing all that we can with support from government to ensure that we reduce drastically the number of patients being sent abroad because we have the equipment and skills,” the minister added.
Dr Baterana told MPs that by October, the hospital hopes to be able carry out kidney transplants.
In recent years, the Opposition, ruling party MPs and civil society have repeatedly criticised government for spending about Shs300 billion on medical treatment of its top officials abroad, yet the current state of hospitals in the country is appalling.