Debate Arises Over Cost of Kidney Transplants in Uganda

mulago hospital plans second kidney transplant following successful procedure
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The government of Uganda has granted five fortunate dialysis patients at Mulago National Referral Hospital the opportunity for free kidney transplants, with the future implementation of fees yet to be determined. This move leaves the majority of the 30 patients on the waiting list to explore ways to fund their essential kidney transplants, acknowledging the financial challenges many face.

Prof Frank Asiimwe, the lead transplant surgeon at Mulago hospital, clarified that the actual cost of the procedure, initially reported at Shs46 million per patient, is still undetermined. The Health Minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, directed that the government cannot bear the expenses for all organ transplants, emphasizing the high cost of specialized medical services.

The decision to assess fees for kidney transplants is aligned with the government’s pursuit of sustainability. Following the successful first kidney transplant in Uganda in December, the Ministry of Health and doctors anticipate saving Ugandans with kidney conditions from seeking transplants abroad.

Dr Peace Bagasha, a nephrologist at Mulago, explained the meticulous selection process for the initial four pairs of kidney transplant patients. While some patients may need to wait for future opportunities, the success of the first transplant has generated increased interest from kidney patients.

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According to the health ministry, 13 percent of Ugandans have kidney disease, with 2 percent in need of transplants. Mulago hospital, along with other facilities, handles a significant number of dialysis sessions annually. Dr Simon Peter Eyoku, head of the kidney unit at Mulago, estimated the cost of a transplant at Mulago to be between $10,000 (Shs38m) and $12,000 (Shs46m), presenting a more affordable option than seeking the procedure in India.

However, the proposed fee of Shs46 million has faced criticism on social media for being too high. Prof Robert Kalyesubula, the president of Uganda Kidney Foundation, acknowledged the high cost of solid organ transplantation and highlighted international cost variations.

The government, through Mulago hospital, is analyzing the expenses incurred for the first transplant to determine a comprehensive cost that will include human resource aspects. A detailed breakdown will be communicated to the public, taking into account the post-transplant care that is ongoing.

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