Twenty- four orthopedic patients are benefiting from free surgeries at a week-long surgical camp at Mulago Specialized National Referral hospital.
Orthopedic surgeons are carrying out joint and knee replacements and other musculoskeletal repairs using the minimally invasive technique also known as laparoscopy. 10 of the patients are undergoing ligament repair whereas fourteen others are getting artificial knees.
Dr Norbert Orwotho, a consultant Orthopedic Surgeon who is leading the medical team at Mulago Specialized National Referral hospital says that most of the patients worked on this week, have lived with pain for more than 10 years and cannot afford the surgery which costs not less than UGX 30 million Shillings but most Ugandans cannot afford it.
The implants used in knee replacements costed at USD 281,000 or UGX one billion Uganda shillings are from a donation from an American philanthropist even if the Mulago theatres are well fitted with state-of-the-art equipment to do the surgeries.
Ifuwa Grace Maureen, the first patient to be operated said she had lived with arthritis for about twelve years. Ifuwa, says she had been treating her pains with ointments and other medicines until it became too difficult for her to move. Despite living on hospital premises, she has been using a Boda Boda to get to work which is really a walkable distance.
“It started with the right knee and it shifted to the left. I was treated and it got better but relaxed and then the pain became unbearable. I started feeling pain and they told me you are bearing weight on the left side in order to protect the right,” said Ifuwa. Ifuwa who is now recovering on the ward said that she has to conduct surgery on the other leg in a year’s time.
Dr Orwotho says outside the camp, Ifuwa will need to buy an implant for about USD 3,000 for the implant even if Mulago hospital can offer a free service in terms of surgery. He explains that usables such as implants are not among the supplies the hospital gets from the National Medical Stores (NMS) to provide free of charge to the public.
In fact, he says, at the orthopaedic outpatient department, he has a long list of patients who are candidates for replacement but can’t afford it. The expert says this number is likely to grow as Ugandans are now living longer and yet younger ones are becoming obese and overweight, which are risk factors for the problem.
Dr Rosemary Byanyima, the acting Executive Director of the hospital notes that while the facility has a good expert stock of 15 surgeons who can conduct seven such surgeries each week, they are constrained to only doing six to seven such surgeries every month. This time, she says beneficiaries were selected from inpatients at the clinic.
She said they received USD 281,000 worth of donations from an American philanthropist to be able to afford this camp even as their own theatres are well fitted with state-of-the-art equipment. the cost of working on one knee for one patient is about UGX 20 million shillings.
Meanwhile, this camp attracted not just patients but experts who came to help with the surgery. One of them, Prof. Timothy Byakika an orthopaedic surgeon based at the Nairobi hospital said he joined in to share knowledge with Colleagues practising in Uganda and also invited Resident Doctors on the team for training purposes.