The cost of treating a patient with heart complications overseas is four times more costly than doing it within the country.
While it costs about Sh16 million for a heart surgery in India, experts at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) in Dar es Salaam carry out the same procedure at only Sh4 million.
Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children minister Ummy Mwalimu revealed recently that the government was embarking on plans to reduce the number of people seeking treatment abroad by at least 20 per cent.
This year, JKCI planned to carry out heart surgeries on 101 Tanzanian children born with heart defects to reduce exorbitant cost spent abroad.
According to Ms Mwalimu such initiatives, coupled with investments in local facilities would help the government reduce a Sh28-billion debt burden in treatment costs, which it owes to foreign countries especially India.
Ms Mwalimu said heart diseases contributed a greater proportion of patients, who were referred to India, with about 50 per cent of the cases.
For other diseases, she said the government incurred over Sh57 million per patient, undergoing kidney transplant in India and over Sh74 million for one with a cancer in the Asian country.
In 2014, at least 198 patients were referred to India for heart surgery, but recent data showed that only 99 were referred to the Asian country in the past one year.
Now, the government is even more determined to reduce the costs with strategies to improve existing health facilities as well as train more health experts.
The determination becomes more vivid through the government’s resolve to build and improve its specialised health facilities. Such institutes include the Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI), the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) and the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI).
According to 2015 report by the research unit at JKCI, the government saved Sh3 billion by offering the surgery to patients with heart complications in 2015 at JKCI.
In continuation of efforts to put up more health facilities, the government, through the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas), is in advanced stages of putting up a modern health facility at Mloganzila on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. The new facility is expected to start operations by next January.
Muhas medical centre project manager Sung-Tae Park assured Tanzanians that the project would be completed in time. He says currently they were in the final stages of construction which involves the installation of medical equipment in the structures. This work is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month.
“It has been almost three years since we started the project and I can assure you that the facility will be ready for use by January next year,” he said during a recent visit by journalists and government officials.
In 2006, the government allocated Muhas 3,800 acres of land in Mlongazila in efforts to help the health institute extend its operations, especially in training of medical professionals in order to increase their number in the country.
The Muhas medical centre, is expected to serve as training centre following an agreement between the government of Tanzania and South Korea.
The loan agreement was signed for construction of the facility, purchasing and installing medical equipment including the information and communications technology (ICT) system.
“The government received a soft loan of $76 million (Sh167 billion) from South Korea in 2010/11 that will be serviced in a period of 40 years which include a grace period of 15 years and payment period of 25 years,” he said.
He said the Tanzanian government itself injected $18 million (Sh39 billion) towards the construction of the facility hence making the total cost of the new medical centre to stand at $94 million (about Sh207 billion).
The new centre has two wings consisting of nine floors each. It will have 571 hospital beds with a parking capacity for 476 vehicles.
In the basement, the facility features electrical and Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) rooms, mechanical room-air handling unit, fire fighting system, water storage tank (960, 000 litres), boiler room, waste water and sewerage treatment plant, control centre, medical gas room, food services areas and laundry.
On the ground floor, the facility has MRI and CT-Scan rooms, X-Rays rooms, emergency medicine and main distribution room.
The first floor of the building will have a dental clinic, department of ear, nose and throat (ENT) and diagnostic laboratories.
On the second floor, there will be dialysis unit, which will be improved in terms of quality and quantity of facilities. There will also be surgical intensive care unit, medical intensive care unit, labour and delivery rooms, neonatal intensive care unit and operating theatres.
On the third floor, the facility will consist of seminar rooms, library and roof garden, computer room and administration offices.
On the fourth to ninth floors, the facility will feature nursing stations and patient movement, pneumatic tube system, psychiatric wards, patient wards and public areas, infectious wards, VIP and VVIP wards as well as penthouse.
Outside the facility, there are annex buildings and support system, mortuary, incinerator, power supply room, oxygen tanks, fuel tanks, generators, soak away and soak away pit, parking area and gardens.
The vice chancellor of Muhas, Prof Ephata Kaaya, told reporters during the tour that construction of high-tech modern facility will surely transform the provision of health services in the country.
“Tanzanians will shortly reap benefits of high-tech modern health facilities following the government’s endless efforts to improve medical care through construction of major health facilities,” he said.
In addition to saving costs, the new facility will also help in reducing the burden at currently experienced by the Muhimbili National Hospital and MOI.
Prof Kaaya told reporters during the media tour that the facility was initially scheduled to open in July, but due to unavoidable circumstances the construction took longer than planned.
“Muhas will enable the government to avoid unnecessary cost it incurs by sending patients abroad for treatment. We will now be able to provide treatment of chronic diseases like cancer, hypertension as well as kidney failure here in the country,” he said.
Prof Kaaya noted that the new medical centre will also enable the university to increase number of medical students it takes in for training from 4,000 enrolled currently to 15,000.
This will go a long way in addressing acute shortage of medical or health specialists, especially in regional and district hospitals across the country.
“The new academic medical centre will pave the way for an increase in the number of health specialists who will be distributed to both regional and district hospitals across the country,” he said.
The new facility is well equipped with modern medical equipment which will ease provision of health services. These medical equipment include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), CT-Scan machines, X-Rays, Mammography (breast cancer screening device), to name but a few.
Prof Kaaya noted that the process of installing the modern medical equipment is still going on.
The modern MRI scanner machine which is being installed has a capacity of 1.5 tesla. MRI is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures found inside the human body.
In many cases, MRI gives different and more information about structures than what can be seen with an X-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan.
Meanwhile, a computerised tomography (CT) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images, or slices, of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more detailed information than plain X-rays do.
Responding to a question posed by a journalist on what has been done to address regular breakdowns of the machines especially due to electricity fluctuations, Prof Kaaya said there will be a special gadget which will be installed to stabilise power used by, not only MRI, but all other medical facilities at the centre.
“We have already consulted with Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (Tanesco) and they have agreed to supply us with sufficient power for the facility. Tanesco will also make sure that we get power which is compatible with kind of machines that will be installed here,” he said.
An industrial UPS has also been fixed to ensure that the power which goes to feed the machines is on required rate.
To ensure that the facility will have constant power supply, the Muhas vice chancellor noted that there will be a standby generators with capacity to produce amount of electricity needed to operate all machines at the facility.
UPS is a critical part of a hospital’s power supply infrastructure. When coupled with UPS and back-up generators, they provide the operating rooms and other critical or intensive care units with continuity of power in the event of a variety of supply failure scenarios.
Mr Omari Killo, one of the contractor personnel, told journalists that the installation of UPS was essential to ensure stability in power supply at the hospital.
“The apparatus would ensure there is stability in the power supplied whenever it is needed especially at the intensive care units, operating theatres and elsewhere,” he said.
The new facility has pneumatic tube system – a precise system used to send samples to laboratories and to other nursing stations within a very short time. This highly complex system which perform a great variety of tasks.
The vice chancellor, Hospital services at Muhas, Prof Said Aboud noted that the pneumatic tube system transports a multitude of small and medium-sized items while doctors and nursing staff dedicate themselves to the patients.
“This system saves not only time, but also space. Laboratories can be centralised and stocks in the decentralised medicine storage depots can be reduced,” he said.
Furthermore, Prof Aboud noted that the pneumatic tube system helps increase efficiency since the staff is no longer busy running errands, allowing the wards to stay occupied all the time.
The Citizen Tanzania