The pandemic of Kidney Disease and other related diseases which require transplantation is a heavy burden ladled on citizens across socio-economic status in Nigeria. In an occasion that could best be described as a symposium of Medical Think-Tank, the 4th Biennial Scientific Conference organized by the Transplant Association of Nigeria (TAN) dissected the state of transplantation in the country and sampled sustainable solutions from local and foreign experts. Themed “Organ Transplantation in Nigeria: Improving Long Term Outcomes”, the conference held recently at Sheraton Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos.
In her welcome address at the opening ceremony of the Conference, the First Lady of Lagos State, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-olu, who was represented by Dr. Ibironke Shodeinde, lent her voice to the struggle of patients who suffer rejection in organ transplantation due to their inability to afford the drugs needed to suppress their immunity.
“In the event that the body rejects the organ, the patient will have to do another transplant or even die if that is not done on time and this is still a problem of the health sector. The healthcare system is not caring for such things and so people have to pay out of pocket. In a place where the health system takes care of such things, once organ transplant is done, the drugs are easily available and if well maintained, survivors can live for several years. But in our clime here, unless you are a multi-millionaire, that is when you can keep getting the drugs from abroad and you can survive”. She noted
However, Dr. Sanwo-olu urged all Lagosians to enroll in the Lagos State Health Scheme. “The Lagos State Health Scheme has been launched and it is important for all residents to enroll and make it grow, we must support the scheme and ensure that it gets to the level that it can take care of all medical conditions and cases.”
In the same vein, the immediate past chairman of TAN, Dr. Ebun Bamgboye opined that the present statistics of transplantation centers cannot cater for the huge population in the country.
“Nigeria currently is estimated to have a population of 200,000,000. Most centers would do between 50 and 100 transplants per centre. With the population of 200,000,000, we should be doing close to 2,000 transplants every single year.
At the current time, we are doing less than a hundred transplants in a year. And what that means is that individuals who have targets or end organ failure be it liver or kidney more likely and who are not able to access or afford the process itself end up dying”.
“If all the public hospitals that have done transplants are recognized, if they are provided with consumables and equipment to ensure that it can be done, then more people will take an interest in that field. In the future, there is also the need to encourage individuals training here to also access the One-year abroad which used to be the case in the past where after your training here, you have the opportunity to go and spend one or two years abroad to acquire further experience particularly for those procedures that are not available here”
The Chief Medical Director of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Professor Adetokunbo Fabanwo, applauded TAN for being at the forefront of the move to ensure that organ transplantation has its pride of place in Nigeria.
“The issue of chronic diseases especially the kidney and other diseases that affect other organs that need replacement is getting more rampant. Hitherto, the only recourse has been to go to overseas countries. We need to domesticate our skills and knowledge in this area”. He said
“As a teaching hospital, we have had missions for kidney transplantation but we are not necessarily contented with having missions. We love to have a sustainable kidney transplantation programme and we have the experts in place. As we speak, one of our Professors of Nephrology and Dean of the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, Professor Awobusuyi, is in the forefront of getting the Lagos State transplantation services domesticated”
While recognizing the fact that the government should scale up efforts in the health sector, the Chairman of the Conference cum MD, Eye Foundation and renowned Ophthalmologist, Dr. Adekunle Hassan charges the up and coming Doctors to look beyond the government if they are determined to make a difference in the profession.
In his words “I am not surprised at the exit of many of our doctors. They have to sharpen their skills and fulfill their mission. One thing I will like to emphasize to the younger generation here is to take a very deep breadth and realize that your success depend on how you handle the political economy of health. A lot of us have chip over our shoulders but you must create the platform to achieve your goal.”
“If you are waiting for the government to do it, the generation after you will refer to you as if you achieved nothing. So my challenge to you at this conference is to have a good caretaker committee that can work with the government. You need them to get the legislation. But to create that institution, you have to look at the private driven institution. An institution that is sustainable, that will generate the resources and will make the surgeons feel good”. The 5th Biennial Scientific Conference will hold in Abuja in 2021.