From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
A Consultant Physician and Nephrologist, Dr Chimezie Okwuonu, has said it is estimated that Nigerians spend about N359.2 billion on medical tourism annually. This figure he said was N19.2 billion higher than the N340 billion budgeted for health in 2018.
Okwuonu who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Abia State, disclosed this during a one-day symposium to create awareness of kidney transplants, successes as well as challenges and impediments organized by the Renal Unit of the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Umuahia.
Okwuonu stated that it was cheaper and safer to have a kidney transplant in Nigeria than abroad and challenged government to provide the needed equipment as the country already has competent hands to handle kidney challenges.
He acknowledged that although the cost of kidney transplants in India ‘is slightly cheaper, the cost of travelling, lodging and other investigations makes it higher.’
He said it costs about $442,500 to undergo a kidney transplant in the United States, but between N5 million and N9 million in Nigeria.
Highlighting the successes made so far in renal transplant at the FMC Umuahia, Okwuonu said that two out of the 11 cases handled since 2017 when it commenced the innovation were lost.
The two deaths according to him were during the post-transplant period as a result of cardiovascular disease and overwhelming infection.
He further identified diabetes, hypertension and chronic glomerulonephritis (toxins in the kidney as a result of herbal concussions or use of cosmetics containing mercury), as the major causes of kidney ailments.
The Consultant Nephrologist advocated good control of blood sugar and blood pressure as well as adequate treatment of kidney infections to stay away from kidney-related diseases.
He identified inadequate dialysis facilities, high cost of drugs, cultural and social barriers to organ donation as well as insufficient manpower as the major impediments to kidney transplant in Nigeria.
He said that with adequate facilities in place for pre and post-transplant sessions, more lives of kidney patients would be saved as Nigeria has the needed expertise to handle kidney-related challenges.
‘Nigerian Nephrologists have the required expertise and handle their patients well. The success rate of surgery is 100% and the survival rate of patients after four years is 80% in our centre. This is comparable to what is obtainable outside the country.’
The NMA boss stressed the need for government at all levels to focus more on healthcare development to put to an end, the incessant medical tourism by Nigerians that gulps more than the nation’s annual budgetary allocation for health.
The Chief Medical Director of FMC Umuahia, Professor Azubuike Onyebuchi, noted that some of the initial challenges recorded when the hospital started kidney transplants in 2017 were being gradually addressed.
He extolled the competence and enthusiasm of medical experts in the hospital to tackle various health challenges.
The Provost, College of Medicine, Gregory University Uturu, Professor I. U Iweha, said that early detection and treatment of renal cases were necessary to avoid complications.
Secretary to Abia State Government, Chris Ezem commended medical experts in FMC Umuahia for their exploits in kidney transplant and management of kidney-related ailments.
He said that the hospital had made it easy and affordable for people in the region to access treatment for kidney diseases instead of travelling abroad.
Deputy Chairman, Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Godfrey Onwuka, expressed delight over the advancement of FMC in handling kidney diseases, saying it will help save a lot of lives in the region.
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