Hospitals likely to harvest organs from dying patients in transplants

18Oct 2019
Henry Mwangonde
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Hospitals likely to harvest organs from dying patients in transplants

TRANSPLANTING key organs by taking undamaged organs from dead people is now going to be formalized in law, thus giving a boost to organ transplanting at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) in particular.

Patients (from R) Frida Mollel of Arusha and Omary Kanzaga and Richard Gikaro of Dar es Salaam, who have just had kidney transplant surgery at MNH.

The Organ Transplant Act is in the offing to permit the harvesting of kidney, liver, bone marrow and other body parts to meet increasing demand for transplant surgeries in the country.

MNH Executive Director Prof Lawrence Museru said at a press briefing in Dar es Salaam yesterday to mark two years since the start of kidney transplant services at the hospital that the drafting of the bill was on its final touches.

He said the bill was being prepared by the Ministry of Health to boost organ transplants, with kidney transplants so far benefiting 51 patients.

Allowing organ transplants is part of efforts to solve challenges experienced during the two years, chief among them being the difficulty in finding willing donors to avail their organs to be removed for transplant to match an ever growing number of patients, he stated.

The new law shall facilitate establishment of transplant services for   patients without blood relatives willing to donate organs, classed as high risk patients. At present transplants are done on patients with close relatives accepting to offer organs, making them low risk patients.

Convincing donors for patients that the hospital can indeed conduct the transplant safely was a problem, with many preferring to go abroad for such donations, he elaborated.

“When we started the services, we lacked various resources with only a few experts who were sent abroad for training. It was a risk and daunting task to undertake but with the support of other institutions we coped successfully,” he recalled.

The two years of offering the services has proved that it is possible to have super specialized services in the country, while there are still a   few issues to address.

On the 51 patients operated at MNH, the hospital spent about 1.5bn/-in comparison with 6.1bn/- that would have been needed had the transplants been conducted abroad.

“No patient was ready to be the first to be transplanted upon, but there are some who believed in our experts and they are the ones who have enabled us reach this far,” he further noted.

The hospital intends to build a transplant centre hosting all such services including liver, kidney, bone marrow and other services to be launched in due course, the director affirmed.

MNH data shows that 340 kidney patients are on dialysis and every month 20 new kidney patients are registered.

Though no study has been conducted on the situation in Tanzania, available data shows 6.8percent of the population is likely to have kidney complications and about 1000 people are currently undergoing dialysis in major hospitals countrywide.

Worldwide, around 10 percent of people have kidney problems and the majority are said to be in Africa.

For many years, Tanzanians suffering from kidney failure had to be referred abroad especially India for the procedure.

Kidney transplant was the second such achievement by the hospital after a successful cochlear implant surgery in June 2017.

MNH has in recent years enhanced its capacity to provide major services whereby the first was Cochlear implant, followed by radiology intervention and then kidney transplant.

The move reduces costs of liver transplant by 50percent for instance, while a successful transplant costs about 100 million/- if conducted in India, taken as the cheapest for those pursuing ‘medical tourism’ especially from Western countries.