Expanding the Frontiers of Healthcare

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Members of the open heart surgical team

With the recent opening of an open heart surgery centre in Nizamiye Hospital, Abuja, Martins Ifijeh writes on its role in reducing medical tourism in the country

Emmanuel was recently diagnosed with a hole in his heart. His world became shattered. His dreams faded gradually and all hope seemed lost. The doctors said he needed a coronary heart bypass surgery to correct the hole in his heart. With days running into weeks and weeks into months, Emmanuel whose brilliance in school was unequalled in the annals of the school died. Taking with him his ideas and dreams.

The story of Emmanuel represents countless deaths that are occurring daily in Nigeria as a result of cardiac diseases. From the early 1940s through the 1950s, it was a popular belief that cardiac diseases were rare among Nigerians. But this changed drastically when cases began to surface and the attendant deaths as a result of this disease. Virtually, several years ago, all who were affected died without help, except those who traveled to Europe and America for treatment.

The first open heart surgery in Nigeria was performed on 1st of February 1974 at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital by a team of surgeons led by M. Yacoub, F.A. Udekwu, D.C. Nwafor, C.H. Anayawu and others. And since then there has been considerable progress in open heart surgery in the country.

Quite a number of teaching hospitals perform open heart surgeries in Nigeria and a couple of private hospitals have made attempts at introducing open heart surgery services in Nigeria. But because of the cost of equipment and assembling of a world-class team, it has not been as successful as it ought to. What most hospitals do is to get the team of experts on a contract basis where the experts visit, perform the surgery and return back to base. But this is about to change with the opening of an open heart surgery clinic in Nigeria by a hospital though Turkish in origin, but Nigeria in heart and deeds.

This is some cheering news coming from the hospital, news that should ordinarily elicit excitement from concerned stakeholders in the healthcare space in Nigeria and news that is aimed at expanding the frontiers of affordable healthcare in the country, especially in the area of open heart surgeries.

Only recently, a five-man team of experts credited with having performed over 15,000 open heart surgeries in Turkey arrived the Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital to commence open heart surgery services on a full-time basis.

“The five-man team is led by Dr. Mustafa Kirman, a cardiovascular surgeon from Turkey, credited to have performed over 15, 000 heart surgeries with 99 per cent success rate,” says the Deputy Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Atilla Emiroglu.

Heart Bypass Surgery, known as the coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is the surgical treatment for coronary artery disease (CAD). It is a routinely performed and safe procedure for treating Coronary artery disease (CAD). Coronary artery disease is due to the hardening and narrowing (atherosclerosis) of the coronary arteries. Actually, the human arteries that bring blood to the cardiac muscle (coronary arteries) can become clogged by plaque (a buildup of fatty tissue, cholesterol, and other harmful substances). This can slow or stop oxygen-rich blood to flowing through the heart’s blood vessels. If this condition is left untreated, this may lead to chest pain and a heart attack.

According to Dr. Emiroglu, Nizamiye Hospital is a pristine medical facility in Abuja that boasts of state-of-the-art medical facilities in its various sections, adding that “our emphasis is proper diagnosis hence the investment in state-of-the-art medical equipment. All our facilities are of the highest quality and we aim to be the best in Nigeria,” he added.

He explained that the Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital was established by Turkish investors under the First Surat Group of companies and commissioned on February 20, 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan in an event that brought together former ministers of health and other dignitaries in the country.

According to a father of a patient in the hospital, Mr. Adebayo Orisakun, the hospital redefines what a medical facility should be in terms of quality of equipment and manpower. “I am not surprised that the hospital has introduced the open heart surgery clinic given the quality of staff and the state of the art medical equipment at the hospital. My daughter has been ill for a long time and we have visited almost all the hospitals in Abuja to no avail until a colleague at work advised me to try the Nizamiye Hospital and to the glory of God, my daughter is doing very well today.

“Our watchword has been the proper diagnosis. The hospital policy ensures that all treatments in the hospital are carried out using international standard and best practices,” Emiroglu also stated.

Lending his voice, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Mustafa Ahsen, said that the hospital is a magnificent five-storey building with its premises fitted with over 50 CCTV surveillance cameras, online UPS system, standby generators, fire extinguishing system with smoke detectors and sprinklers, centralised air conditioning system, centralised medical gas system, and centralised nursing call system in the wards.
“The hospital has a 55-bed capacity with adjustable beds dressed in cheerful bed clothes, a fridge, and a television set. Our vision is to be the answer to trusted medical services.

“Among a host of others, its cardiology clinic uses the ECHO, ECG, and Treadmill to diagnose cardiovascular diseases, while urology clinic uses transurethral resection technique for prostrate operations and kidney stones extraction, all without making any cuts in the process. For cancer diagnosis, it uses microscopic bone marrow analysis and to diagnose digestive system diseases, it uses colonoscopy tools. Nizamiye Hospital has put in place all these facilities to enhance the frontiers of reliable and affordable healthcare in Nigeria,” he explained.

With the recent introduction of open heart surgery services, the hospital, according to the CMD, intends to bridge that critical gap in the FCT and by extension Nigeria.
“We don’t want Nigerians to travel abroad for open heart surgeries anymore for two reasons; the cost and the recovery process which requires proper monitoring. Say for example you travel abroad for the surgery and upon return, there are complications, since the surgery was performed abroad you will incur additional expenses traveling back, and in open heart surgery, time is of the essence. We saw a need and we committed resources to bring that service to Nigeria on a full-time basis,” he added.

On the hospital website, it stated that “Dr. Mustapha comes on board with a 24 years professional expertise that is capable of setting the pace in open heart surgeries in Nigeria.”

The chief medical director of the hospital stated that over 10 patients have been booked for open heart surgeries starting from next week.

“We have over 10 patients on the waiting list already. And we are all set to commence the surgery. We are in the process of running the relevant test on the patients and stabilising them as well because we believe that proper healing does not start and end with drug administration or surgery, the patient has to be encouraged to stay strong as our policy demands. We do a proper diagnosis and not until we get 99 per cent confirmation we don’t assume,” he stated.

Speaking to THISDAY, the leader of the team, Dr. Mustafa Kirman stated that “when the offer to come to Nigeria was presented, I was more than elated because I knew I would be rendering invaluable services to humanity through the Nizamiye Hospital.” He also added that “it’s a big sacrifice to leave Turkey and come to Nigeria. It was not a decision propelled by financial gains. It was indeed a decision that borders around providing that critical service to mankind and to Nigerians.”

This service can’t be coming at a better time in Nigeria when it is estimated that Nigeria loses about N3 billion annually on medical tourism according to a report by Medical Tourism Association’s Research, Surveys and Statistics. The Medical Association, “disclosed that according to the Indian High Commission, Indian hospitals received 18,000 Nigerians on medical visas in 2012, and about 47 per cent of outbound medical tourism from Nigeria go to India, spending about $260 million USD.”

Only in January this year, the MTN Foundation sponsored 14 children for open heart surgery in India. But with the coming of the open heart surgery facility by the Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital, Nigerians wouldn’t need to travel abroad for open heart surgeries anymore.