Tanzania: Govt Eyes Improved Access to Cardiovascular Services

TANZANIA’s plan to become a medical tourism hub is slowly but surely becoming a reality after the government’s grand move to expand the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiovascular Institute (JKCI) to its 50,000 square metre of land at Mloganzila in the outskirt of Dar es Salaam.

Envisioned to be the centre of excellence in East Africa and Sub- Saharan Africa, JKCI will be able to scale up treatment of cardiovascular complications which is among non-communicable diseases that are currently on the rise within the country and the world in general.

This new planned facility will not only ease access to heart treatment to local patients but also extend services to patients coming from neighbouring countries among others, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Malawi and Comoros.

The new facility at Mloganzila will include a special wing for children, which will have a capacity of between 280 and 350 beds, up from the current 128 beds at the current JKCI building, which is located within the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH).

The Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu recently while inaugurating JKCI Board of Trustees directed the institute to initiate the process of expanding its wings to the area, where there is enough space to carry out the project.

“It will be better for the institute to expand to Mloganzila because there is enough space for patients, and even an area for exercises,” said Ms Mwalimu.

This grand move comes following Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa’s request extended to the President of China, Mr Xi Jinping, to support the expansion of JKCI during the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in September, 2018 in Beijing, China.

Apart from the extension of the cardiac institute, Tanzania also requested China to support it improve its capability in manufacturing of medicines, medical equipment and training of personnel.

Elaborating on the same recently, JKCI immediate former Executive Director, Prof Mohammed Janabi disclosed that the building will be constructed under joint venture between Tanzanian and China governments, whereby they will share the construction cost of the project.

Prof Janabi, who was recently appointed as the new Executive Director for Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), said plans were on the right track but were interrupted by the emergence of Covid-19, as China, like many other countries, imposed travel restrictions.

“Covid-19 is the reason behind delays in the project, because our potential partners from China were not able to travel, but everything including designing was in place before the pandemic emerged,” said Prof Janabi.

On his side, a member of the Medical Tourism Committee that is under JKCI, Mr Joseph Kahama, said the government had been spending billions of shillings to send patients abroad.

“Many countries surrounding us do not have such enough health facilities, so it is high time to make use of our facilities to treat our own people and foreigners to save billions of shillings that the government had been spending every year on sending patients abroad,” said Mr Kahama.

Last year when President Samia Suluhu Hassan was inaugurating a 4.6bn/- worth catheterisation laboratory (cathlab) and carto 3 machines at JKCI indicated statistics showing that 33 per cent of deaths in the country are caused by noncommunicable diseases and 13 per cent of those diseases are linked to blood pressure and heart complications.

JKCI is among 25 countries worldwide offering specialised heart treatment with data from last June indicating that the institute saved up to 250bn/- from sending patients abroad to obtain treatment.

The cost of carrying out open heart surgery and associated treatment ranges between 15m/- to 20m/- depending on the type of cardiac complication and surgery. Statistics indicate that JKCI carried out 5,959 heart surgeries by June, last year.

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