TANZANIA is steadily positioning itself as a healthcare hub for medical tourism with people from around the region growingly seeking medical services in the country.
Major improvements in the health sector have helped bolster Tanzania’s position as preferred destination for health services in the region.
Reports from Kenya have it that a number of residents, especially in the border town of Taveta, say they prefer travelling to hospitals in Tanzania as they are cheap, well equipped and the health workers are friendly.
It said some of the Tanzanian hospitals which offer the much-needed services to residents are Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) in Moshi and Faraja Health Centre in Himo District.
Taveta resident Patrick Mnyange is recuperating at his home after he was discharged from Faraja on January 18.
Mnyange, who had been admitted at the hospital for a month, says he has spent over Ksh 150,000 at the hospital after he was attacked with a machete in December, last year.
He was taken to Taveta hospital but did not get treatment he sought. His family decided to take him to Tanzania.
“We would have lost him because he was bleeding and his hands needed immediate treatment. Now, he is feeling better,” says Mnyange’s wife Floice Rusiana.
She says during their stay at the hospital, eight other patients from across Kenya were admitted there.
“Some were from Werugha, Kasigau, Voi and Taveta town. They were in the ward we were in,” she says.
Another family in Bura Ndogo village has a patient at Kilimanjaro Christian hospital. Juma Miraj says his niece, 14, needs over Ksh 100, 000 to undergo an urgent surgery to remove a tumour from her stomach.
The family’s efforts to seek treatment at local hospitals were futile due to lack of specialised treatment and drugs.
“The doctors at Taveta hospital referred us to Tanzania. They admitted there are no facilities here to treat her,” he says.
The ongoing health sector transformations have improved access not only to specialized healthcare but also routine medical services.
It has also cut down the number of Tanzanians seeking the services abroad while attracting patients from neighbouring countries.
For instance, the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) is currently conducting highly specialized services including kidney transplant, cochlear implant and interventional radiology and plans are underway to introduce other services such as vitro fertilisation (IVF), liver transplant and bone marrow transplant.
MNH Executive Director Prof Lawrence Museru confirmed recently that his institution intends to build the transplant centre at MNH Mloganzila to ensure sustainability of all transplant services.
The national hospital averagely serves 288 foreigners, annually, with three quarters of them from SADC member states.
The government has also recorded notable achievements in cardiovascular services by investing in advanced equipment that enabled the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac institute (JKCI) to handle complicated cases which were referred abroad.
Currently, JKCI serves patients from across all the regions in Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, who are referred from regional referral and designated district hospitals for tertiary level cardio- vascular medical care.
It also receives patients from nearby countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Comoro, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi.
Among the services offered at JKCI included the treatment of cardiovascular diseases by open heart surgery, vascular surgery and catheterisation.
The facility also conducts basic investigation and advanced investigation on cardiovascular medicine, which include stress, an echocardiogram (ECHO), Holter electrocar- diogram (ECG) and ambulatory BP monitoring among others.
In cancer treatment, the government invested in the purchase of modern equipment for cancer detection and treatment such as cancer medical linear accelerators (LINAC) which has helped to cut down the number of referrals abroad.
The Ocean Road cancer Institute is also set to start offering PET-CT Scan services from June this year after securing a contractor who will construct the facility over a sixmonth period.
According to the Executive Director of the ORCI, Dr Julius Mwaiselage, the PETCT Scan project at the health facility will be the biggest in the Sub-Saharan African countries.
Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ms Ummy Mwalimu says Tanzania has made notable strides in the health sector where many of the ailments that were referred abroad at exorbitant costs are now treated, including heart surgeries as well as kidney and cochlear transplant.
“Unlike in the past, 95 per cent of heart surgeries are now conducted at the state-of-theart Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) while Muhimbili National Hospital and Benjamin Mkapa Hospital have started kidney transplants,” she said.