Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

25 February 2013

Tanzania: New Cath Lab to Cut Cardiovascular Treatment Costs

TREATMENT for cardiovascular diseases, including coronary heart disease and stroke will be made easy and available locally at affordable costs thanks to plans to open up a catheterization lab at Aga Khan Hospital, next year.

The Hospital's Medical Director, Dr Jaffer Dharsee, said over the weekend in Dar es Salaam that the lab which is expected to start in June, next year, will cut surgical treatment expenses now obtained abroad by less than half.

"Right now we do not have surgical treatment in the country, we depend solely on medication which is not reliable as its chances of providing completely cure are limited but with surgery a patient can recover in three days," he said.

Dr Dharsee was speaking during "the 2013 cardiology updates and status of cardiac services in East Africa symposium" which brought together local and international experts in the field of cardiology.

He added that currently, sending a patient to India to undergo angioplasty costs up to 3500 US dollars but that figure could go down to 1500 US dollars when such services are made available in the country.

The hospital, however, plans to work closely with the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) which is expected to have such facilities in two months and some eight cardiologists have been trained.

One cath lab needs a minimum of 12 cardiologists to make it operate smoothly and it costs up to 1.6 million US dollars to train a cardiologist, whereas it costs 2 million US dollars to put in place the lab.

"We are investing 4.6 million US dollars in this plan including training expenses and we expect that Tanzania will in three years from now be able to remarkably reduce deaths related to these complications," he said.

Statistics have it that rates of Coronary Heart Diseases (CHD) were expected to increase in developing countries between 1990 and 2020 by 120 per cent for women and 137 per cent for men. The prevalence of rise favours for cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension and obesity is said to be much higher in urban areas than in rural.

Risk factors include hypertension, smoking, diabetes, obesity, unhealthy life-style habits and ageing population with people over 40 years of age advised to check regularly. In 2005 alone, it is estimated that Tanzania lost 100 million dollars in national income from premature deaths due to heart diseases, stroke and diabetes.

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