Ugandans who have previously incurred significant expenses for organ transplants abroad can now find solace as the country inaugurates comparable services within its borders.
During the inauguration ceremony of the Dr. Rita Moser Transplant Theatre at Lubaga Hospital, valued at Shs1 billion, Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health, disclosed that health facilities such as Lubaga Hospital and Mulago National Referral Hospital are on the brink of introducing organ and tissue transplantation.
He revealed that the only remaining step is for the Uganda Organ Donation and Organ Transplant Council to evaluate the facility’s compliance with established standards.
The criteria for organ transplant centers involve having two theaters, one for the donor and another for the recipient, a well-equipped intensive care unit, recovery room, laboratories, and a team of specialists proficient in performing transplants.
Dr. Mwebesa confirmed that organ transplants conducted at Mulago will be provided free of charge, while those performed at private hospitals will come at a lower cost than the hefty amounts Ugandans have been paying abroad, which often reach Shs60 million.
However, he noted that hospitals prepared to execute organ and tissue transplants must wait for approval from the Organ Transplant Council, established by the Health Minister, as stipulated by a law signed by the President on March 15, effective as of August 1, 2023.
Dr. Mwebesa further elaborated that the council members, comprising experts in the field, have been nominated and await cabinet approval.
This breakthrough will alleviate the financial burden on Ugandans who have previously borne the high expenses of organ transplants overseas. “I have been clearing about six patients who need to undergo kidney transplants on a weekly basis, and from the documents, I see one patient requires $17,000 (approximately Shs60 million) for the transplant alone,” Dr. Mwebesa stated.
The strict provisions outlined in the organ transplant law will serve to prevent any potential malpractice.
Dr. Michael Okello, the Director of the Organ Transplant Theatre at Lubaga Hospital, outlined their future plans to provide kidney, liver, and cornea transplants once they secure council approval. For cornea transplants, which currently require organs to be imported, Dr. Okello highlighted the intent to eventually procure corneas from deceased individuals upon government authorization.
Dr. Julius Luyimbazi, the Executive Director of Lubaga Hospital, emphasized that numerous patients across various hospitals currently rely on expensive dialysis, and introducing organ transplant services locally would significantly alleviate their financial burden.
Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere of Kampala welcomed the initiative, asserting that overseas organ transplants have primarily been accessible to affluent Ugandans, while this new effort will enable more economically disadvantaged individuals to access comparable services within the country.
Dr. Frank Asiimwe, a consultant urologist and transplant surgeon at Mulago National Referral Hospital, and President of the Association of Surgeons in Uganda, announced the formation of a national team of surgeons to collaborate on performing transplants.
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