Lack of specialized medical equipment is costing lives
A 17-year old girl whose single kidney was failing recently died because the dialysis equipment needed to treat her, and which is only available in Butare, was not ready in time. Even if doctors doubt that the treatment could have saved her, it shows how lack of specialized medical equipment, and the enormous cost of its use, is costing lives.
The girl (whose name the doctors did not give in accordance with their ethical code) first reported to CHK last September, complaining of severe abdominal pain, with her belly being abnormally swollen, CHK director Theobald Hategekimana explains.
When doctors were not able to determine the cause of the illness through regular tests, the girl was submitted to more advanced tests including echography and a scanner. Yet even those were not conclusive, although they indicated that the abdominal mass was located either on her ovaries, her intestines or her kidneys.
Given that the girl’s pain was going from bad to worse, the doctors decided to operate on her in order to ease the pain and in the process discover the actual cause of her illness.
During the operation, a huge quantity of water was removed from her abdomen, and the surgeon discovered that the abdominal mass was actually the girl’s only (left) kidney. It was concluded that the 17-year old was born with only her left kidney, and although she had been able to live normally, the kidney had now become infected and was starting to fail.
Aimé Rurangwa, the surgeon who operated the girl, explains that after consulting with other medical staff, it was thought best to send her to Butare for dialysis (a medical treatment that removes waste substances from the blood of someone whose kidneys are not working properly).
When the medical staff at Butare were informed by the CHK doctors about the urgent need for dialysis, given that the girl’s condition had become critical, they replied that it would take 10 days for the dialysis treatment to be ready. Thus, the doctors at CHK were forced to wait, as dialysis is the only treatment for kidney failure.
Tragically, when the girl finally arrived in Butare University hospital on January 18, she passed away while being prepared for the treatment.
Frw 750,000 per day
When the members of the medical team that had treated the girl were asked by Focus whether they had not been negligent, as has been alleged by some people, they denied this, pointing out that even if the girl had managed to get the dialysis on time, she would still had very slim chances of survival.
Martin Nyundo, one of the surgeons in the team, explains that in case she had managed to get the dialysis on time, it would still have been very expensive for her to continue this treatment until she finally got a kidney donor.
According to him, dialysis treatment costs as much as Frw 750,000 per day, and no one can be quite certain how long it might take to find a kidney donor. Obviously, this cost is too high for ordinary Rwandans.
“We did our best as a team to save this young girl, but it was too late and we are certainly not to blame for the delay of the of dialysis treatment,” concurs Eugene Rugwizangoga, another doctor.
He does not put the blame of what happened on anyone, but points out that many Rwandans do not go for regular medical check-ups, and only go for treatment when they are in a very bad condition, in which case it is often too late for the doctors to save them.
He agrees, however, that most specialized medical treatments in Rwanda are too expensive, which is shown by the fact that even at King Faisal Hospital patients sometime spend months and even years waiting for specialists from abroad to operate on them, and often patients die before specialized medical assistance can be given to them.