UNIVERSITY Teaching Hospital managing directoir Lackson Kasonka says the institution is preparing to undertake the first ever kidney transplant operation in September this year.
Dr Kasonka said at a press briefing yesterday that the kidney transplant programme was aimed at upgrading the profile of the hospital by offering high level health services to patients in need.
He said the hospital was already performing dialysis treatment for patients suffering from kidney failure, but that it was very expensive and unsustainable for both Government and the patients.
He said the coming of a local kidney transplant programme would help lower the cost of treatment, and increase possibility of improving patients’ lives.
“Zambians are aware of what we can do as a hospital in case of treatment for kidney failure through the lifelong dialysis treatment, but the growing number of patients on the list calls for alternative treatment which is more reliable and less costly, and that is kidney transplant.
“We would like to expand access for our patients to have kidney transplant within the country as opposed to going outside at great costs for the Government and the patients respectively,” he said.
Dr Kasonka was in the company of members of the Transplant Link Community (TLC), a UK-based organization currently in the country to assess Zambia’s healthcare system’s capacity to conduct a kidney transplant operation.
He said the September operation should be a pilot project to set pace for a long term kidney transplant programme at the largest health facility in the country, to be spread to other high level hospitals like Kitwe, Ndola and Livingstone.
He said the current treatment for kidney failure had proved too expensive and unsustainable as it required three days a week therapy for the rest of a patient’s life, which could be for many years.
“Government supports kidney transplant outside Zambia but at a huge cost and our concern is that it is unsustainable, but this programme gives chance to those deserving patients to receive the one-off treatment through transplant,” he explained.
And UTH consultant nephrologist and Ministry of Health focal point (diseases), Aggrey Mweemba attributed the most common cause of renal failure in the country to HIV and diabetes among other underlying factors.
Dr Mweemba said a survey around public health facilities in Lusaka revealed that about 17 percent of HIV positive patients have developed kidney failure, which if translated on a national scale from about 1.6 million people living with HIV, around 200,000/300,000 of this number was said to present kidney problems.
He said kidney failure was a growing problem among people of all ages regardless of sex, which needed urgent attention and transplantation was a more reliable response for effective results at a reduced cost.
He said the transplant should target patients with chronic kidney failure at a cost of about US$20,000 per patient, but that the amount was expected to be lower after the commencement of the progrmme.
“Currently, dialysis is only done at UTH, but we expect the service to be extended to the Ndola and Livingstone general hospitals in the next two months, after which we are hoping for the inclusion of all provincial centres as dialysis centres.
“The transplant programme targets patients with chronic kidney failure at an initial cost of around US $20,000, although this is expected to come down by even 50 percent once the operations start,” he said.
Dr Mweenda said the MoH/TLC collaboration was aimed at building capacity among health workers and developing a progrmme to attent to tehnumerous kidney problems in the country.
He said the cost of treating one person on dialysis as K80,000 per person per year but that it should even cost less than US $10,000 for a one off kidney transplant.
And a renal surgeon from the University Hospital Birmingham, and a member of the Transplant Links Community, Andrew Ready, explained that the organization has initiated kidney transplants in Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica and Trinidad among other countries.
Dr Ready said UTH was already preparing for the operations which should help improve the patients’ lives from the lifelong dialysis treatment currently available.