By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, has resuscitated the open heart surgery programme ten years after it suspended the exercise following its movement from an old site within the Enugu metropolis to its permanent site at Ituku-Ozala.
Already,the hospital in collaboration with a United States based non-governmental organisation, the VOOM Foundation, has successfully carried out the open heart surgery on four patients with heart-related ailments.
Speaking when the Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu visited the hospital to witness a live surgery operation at the UNTH, Chief Medical Director, Dr Chris Amah said the hospital which is a federal government designated centre of excellence for open heart surgery suspended the exercise based on movement from its former site and the absence of the necessary facilities needed for such exercise.
He noted that when he assumed office about two years ago as CMD, he decided to resuscitate the programme by partnering with foreign organisations since it would be difficult to use the local surgeons to recommence the exercise when they had not done it for the past ten years.
He said the hospital is currently partnering with the VOOM foundation, also known as the Vincent Ohaji Memorial Foundation that led a team of 14 medical experts to Nigeria for the sole purpose of resuscitating the programme at the UNTH.
“Vincent led a team of 14 experts, from United States, United Kingdom and Canada that include 4 cardiac surgeons, 2 Cardiac nurses and the rest of them. Interestingly, two of them are Nigerians and alumni of this place. They are practising in the UK .
“Since they arrived, on March 18, they have handled four cases. We want to stem the tide of medical mission to India and so on. This is a programme that we are all committed to its sustainability. The medical mission is planning to come every two-to-three months until our own local surgeons have their hands strong and firm on it. Another mission is planned for May and July respectively. Before the end of this year, we will have four missions and we want to make sure that before the next mission some of the deficits we have noticed would have been rectified,” he said, while soliciting for the support of the federal government.
He explained that it takes about N2 million for a patient to be fully treated of his heart related ailment,but because of the subsidisation of the surgery by VOOM foundation and other organisations across the globe, the cost had been reduced to N500,000 at present.
In his remarks, the Minister of Health, Prof Chukwu congratulated the management of the UNTH for resuscitating the open heart surgery programme, noting that the programme is in-line with the transformation programme of President Goodluck Jonathan’s led administration.
“He has insisted that given the intelligence of Nigerians, there is no reason why medical skills should not be available in the country. A situation where people are flown abroad for medical missions is not the best for us. His vision is already yielding positive results,” the minister noted.
He said that unlike in the past, where a few hospitals are designated as centres of excellence, under his watch as the health minister, all federal teaching hospitals are now designated as centres of excellence.
While pledging the support of the federal government to the programme at UNTH, Prof Chukwu urged the management of the institution to remain focused, adding that he would encourage the Kanu Heart Foundation to move some of their patients to the hospitals as it would reduce the cost of taken them abroad for treatment.