Nigeria is on the verge of becoming a medical tourism destination of choice for all kinds of cardiovascular treatment if the effort by Nigerian Cardiology specialists at the First Cardiology Consultant Hospital Lagos is anything to go by. The hospital is being promoted by some returning Nigerian medical consultants in the Diaspora.
It is no longer news that many Nigerians spend a fortune to obtain treatment for heart and other ailments from overseas. This is because heart ailments have been adjudged illnesses that impoverish the rich and make the poor destitute.
Unfortunately, some of these helpless Nigerians even pay with their lives in the process. Worse still, apparently due to stressful situations which Nigerians are made to go through on daily basis, findings show that more Nigerians are coming down with the problem. Today, this condition and others which forced many to seek treatment abroad is costing the country a whooping N1 billion annually in the name of medical tourism.
However, hope is on the horizon for these patients as these surgical interventions ranging from medicine and non-medicine treatments, to surgical procedures for heart problems, can now be done in the country.
In fact, it was like a Hollywood movie when Good Health Weekly watched live procedure of an open heart surgery at the hospital located in Ikoyi area of Lagos weekend. The testimonies were intriguing.
The team was led by the Managing Director, Dr. Yemi Johnson , a globally acknowledged interventional cardiologist with over 30 years practice in the best hospitals and universities in the United States, Dr. Kofo Ogunyankin, a professor of medical imaging at Northwestern University, Illinois, United States and Mr. Onyekwelu Nzewi, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, Ireland and Director of Save the Heart Foundation.
From the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), high dependence unit or step down room, the operating theatre, the recovery room, all are electronically connected that patients can be monitored all round at different stages of care by different specialists without having to move the patient around like in conventional hospitals.
One thing that was outstanding was the professionalism exhibited by the experts at the hospital.
Every action in the theatre was transmitted on monitors. It was obvious that the functionality of the different high tech equipment in the hospital was to ensure accurate diagnosis, precise procedures and full proof interventional surgery where necessary.
There was no room for guess work. For instance, as basic as administering drip to patients, pump machines are programmed to deliver at any speed as slow as o.1ml per hour and each patient is entitled to six pump machines at the same time and can monitor and perform other functions towards ensuring accurate treatment and recovery.
In the views of one of the cardiologists at the First Cardiology Consultants, Dr. Kofo Ogunyankin: "Here we don't do guess work, from diagnosis to surgery everything is programmed to work to precision including how and where the surgeon is going to cut or pass wire in case of surgery. Our mission is to provide same level of cardiac care overseas where we practised for years.
"We offer full spectrum of cardiac treatment. This hospital is going to be delivering at the highest level not just preventing people from falling sick and dying but things that can help those who are ill to stay alive and have better quality of life."
Ogunyankin, who was once a professor at the North Western and Columbia University maintained that they were in Nigeria to replicate the only way they know to practice medicine as well as show that it was also possible in Nigeria.
He explained that most blockages in the heart are caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and eating foods that are not healthy. "Here, we confirm when people are well, when they don't feel well and what the problem is.
We are also able to offer them different spectrums of treatment from the simple ones that require no procedure or medicines, like diabetes, blood pressure, fat and stress reduction, to those that require surgery. But people who did not get to us on time and things have started happening to them like this patient, we can clear the blockages without operation. Everything that has to do with cardiac surgery done in any good place in the world can be done here."
Ogunyankin said government can assist to reduce the prevalence by ensuring people with hypertension obtain affordable medicines.
He urged the Federal Government to give a special waiver on import duty for medical equipment to enable genuine medical practitioners provide treatment at an affordable cost.
A Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Mr. Onyekwelu Nzewi urged Nigerians aged 45 years and above to go for a stress test as heart attack and cardiac arrest are rampant in Nigeria. He noted that Nigerians go through a lot of stress which results in aches thereby making it difficult for people to differentiate between the ache from the heart and from stressful activities of the day. "It is not very expensive but it will save people from sudden catastrophe."
Nzewi who warned that heart attack can kill suddenly without signs, said the difference between the hospitals and others was that technology is used to control things that people trust luck for. Heart attack does not give people signs. Some people make it to hospitals like this alive and they increase their chances of staying alive while some don't."