As part of measures to improve the wellbeing of Nigerians afflicted with kidney disease and End-Stage Renal Disease, ESRD, the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex, OAUTHC, Ile-Ife, Osun State, has introduced what it describes as affordable renal care services.
Under the package, one session of haemodialysis (renal dialysis) costs N15,000, while a patient who requires kidney transplant pays N2.5 million for the surgical operation.
Plans have also been initiated to set up an endowment fund to cater for indigent patients seeking healthcare services at the tertiary health institution.
Chairman of the OAUTHC Board, Pharm Matthew Urhoghide, who disclosed this to Good Health Weekly in a chat, said the subsidised renal care services were introduced primarily to encourage Nigerians to patronize local health facilities, and, secondarily, to stem the tide of patients flocking abroad especially to India, for haemodialysis and kidney transplants.
"Renal disease has become so rampant in Nigeria that we are looking at a statistic that one out of every 10 people has a compromised kidney.
"On daily basis, we see Nigerians complaining of kidney diseases and asking for help. They would say they have opened an account and in need of N8 million to go to India for kidney transplant.
"We want to reduce the movement of Nigerians abroad to seek medical services and expertise that is available here and is cheaper. Government has asked us to help and that is what we are doing," Urhoghide remarked.
Noting that Nigerian medical experts are in health institutions all over the world, he in the United States of America and the United Kingdom alone, there are over 4,000 Nigerian specialists, and several people who have gone to India often realise the environment is not better than what is available in Nigeria.
"In other hospitals, even at the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, one session of renal dialysis costs N30, 000 to N40, 000. Here, we charge N15, 000. We charge that low because of an existing tradition here to charge the locals low to help them afford it. Again, we know that majority of the people who use this facility are not from here but are attracted by our lower prices.
"In this place, it actually costs less than N3 million to have a kidney transplant. In India it is about N7 million to N8 million But this is what we offer here. The idea is to reduce capital flight, and the Federal government has a transformation agenda to enable people have access to healthcare in Nigeria rather than go abroad."
Further, Urhoghide said part of the goal was to try as much as possible to reduce medical tourism and minimise capital flight. He said with overseas medical care, a patient spends up to two or three times of what is required at OAUTHC.
In his view, the excuse that good health facilities are not available in Nigeria is no longer tenable.
Urhoghide lamented the ignorance of people of the fact that someone can have one functional kidney that will carry him or her throughout life.
"One of the major challenges of carrying out kidney transplants in this environment is getting people to donate kidneys.
"Our people are ignorant of the fact that a person can survive on one kidney. Someone can have one functional kidney that will carry him or her throughout life. We believe that if we are able to increase the public awareness, we will reduce kidney-related death rates in Nigeria," he asserted.
The Board Chairman pointed out that the OAUTHC which has carried out 13 kidney transplants till date and has one earmarked for July, recently commissioned a brand new organ transplant theatre. "OAUTHC has the best facilities for kidney transplants. People don't know we carried out the first kidney transplant in Nigeria in 2002. Most other institutions depend on this place for such feats, but this is the only teaching hospital that is fully indigenous in operation."
Calling for increased public awareness to reduce kidney-related death rates, he said kidney transplant is not just taking people to the theatre and taking the kidney and replacing it.
"It is required to have a special theatre, a specialist (called a kidney surgeon) and a nephrologist. At the OAUTHC, we have a tissue typing lab for carrying out preliminary work of taking a part of the tissue from any part of the body to determine if the kidney to be transplanted will be compatible. OAUTHC is the only institution to have this laboratory in Nigeria.
"Previously, tissue samples from here were taken to Egypt for confirmation but now we do market render such services, and other institutions send samples here for confirmation," he said
Records from the health institution's Renal Unit show that the incidence and prevalence of chronic kidney disease and ESRD have increased exponentially in recent times.
Only a very small fraction of the ESRD population ever gets transplanted and among reasons adduced for this development is high cost of accessing renal care leading to unaffordability and inaccessibility. Other constrains include shortage of donor organs and poor legislative support among others.
On the setting up of an endowment fund for indigent patients, he said the institution was working towads engaging philanthropists and charity organisations in that respect.
"Many of our centres have several patients that cannot pay at the point of discharge. It would help if the Governor can come to their aid, particularly if they are from this State, even if it is at certain fraction of the cost."