TZ expands medical tourism crusade

TANZANIA has continued to expand its medical tourism crusade as the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) signs Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Zambia and Rwanda in the treatment of heart patients and capacity building of the country’s medical staff.

However, as the lead cardiac centre in the African region, JKCI receives up to 150,000 patients on an annual basis with 20 of them coming from the continent.

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Grace Magembe revealed this during the MoU signing ceremony which was held in Dar es Salaam, yesterday.

Dr Magembe disclosed that President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s vision of Tanzania becoming a hub of medical tourism was slowly but surely becoming a reality.

“She has been driving forward the agenda of medical tourism and her dream has been how can African countries work together to reduce the number of referrals abroad, so that the countries can retain their foreign currency and continue collaboration among each other in terms of saving the lives of people at a very affordable cost,” said the Deputy Minister.

She noted that the signing of the MoU was also in line with the implementation of the South-South cooperation, adding that the collaboration was a longstanding one not only as Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries but also as neighbours.

She extended recognition to Save a Child’s Heart, the government of Zambia and Rwanda for supporting the visions of the country in arriving at the Ministry’s set performance indicators.

She added that “The government is really determined to transform the health sector of the country, citing examples of the initiatives taken in other public health facilities as well as primary health care.

“Among components which will be addressed is exchange in terms of capacity building…we need this, this is a home grown solution from Africa. If we continue like this I am sure we are going to double our progress in terms of economic development and the various sectors.”

JKCI Executive Director, Dr Peter Kisenge disclosed  acknowledged the support extended by the government citing initiatives to boost cardiac treatment in the country including procurement of a Cath lab machine worth 4.4bn/- which was inaugurated by the President last year and 4.3bn/- dished out for establishing a diagnostic centre.

He noted that, through the outstanding leadership of President Samia and ministry responsible, JKCI is now the leading cardiac centre in the African continent.

“We receive about 150,000 patients who attend the clinic every year…the institute carries out 600 minor surgeries and 1,450 major surgeries every year,” he said.

He, however, indicated that every month JKCI receives up to 20 patients from countries including Malawi, the Comoros, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda and Burundi.

On the other hand, he observed they have also attended patients from Europe who visit Tanzania as tourists from countries such as Norway, United Kingdom, India and Poland.

“We are glad that through the massive investment by the government we have managed to cut foreign referrals by 90 per cent,” he said.

For his part, Senior Medical Superintendent at the Zambia National Heart Hospital, Dr ChabwelaShumba noted that coming to JKCI will yield cardiac health care to the people of Zambia, noting that the MoU means a continuation of the foundation laid by the founding fathers of the two nations the late Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda who built one of the largest infrastructure between Tanzania and Zambia the Tazara Railway-line.

Commenting, the Deputy Director of King Feisal Hospital in Rwanda, Mr Fredric Ngirabacu was of the view that the kind of collaboration is what should be happening in the African countries, instead of going far to look for solutions, whereas the countries can learn from each other and put to use the experience that each of the institution have that others do not have.

The Chief Executive Officer of Save a Child’s Heart, Mr Simon Fischer the pioneers of the great endeavour indicated that the partnership was the beginning of a very special relationship in these three countries and hopefully will have a long way to go in creating a region which can take care of its  own children from pediatric anomaly.

“The vision of Save a Child’s Heart is to see JKCI in the next 5-10 years is a lead player in the region also established in training all programs and becoming more involved in medical missions in Zambia and Rwanda.

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