Ugandans Seeking Unnecessary Surgical Procedures Abroad- Surgeons

Despite advances in medical care in the country, surgeons say a lot of Ugandans are still seeking surgical procedures abroad.

Speaking to journalists ahead of their inaugural surgical landscape exhibition, surgeons under their umbrella organization, the Association of Surgeons of Uganda (ASOU), said there’s still a lack of awareness of not just what procedures can be done by experts in Uganda but also what illnesses require a surgical intervention, which in the end has led to persistent medical tourism.

Dr. Victor Kigonya, a Resident Surgeon at Kibuli Muslim hospital, said that he has interacted with many patients who present medical documents of procedures done abroad, costing them more than what they should have spent in the country.

However, the awareness problem doesn’t stop at tertiary procedures that need advanced care. The doctors said even with smaller problems such as hernias, through surgical camps, they have found people living with easily solved problems such as swellings and hernias for ten to twenty years.

Kigonya said this is partly worsened by the fact that there are no surgeons at the smallest health facilities, where the majority of Ugandans seek health services. According to Dr. John Ssekabira, who heads the pediatric surgery unit at Mulago National Referral Hospital, this challenge is even worse when it comes to surgical problems among children as there are fewer than ten pediatric surgeons in a country of 45 million people.

Each week in Mulago hospital alone, Ssekabira said they operate on twenty and thirty children with various complications but many surgeries such as hernias are not urgently attended to as required because of the huge need for other life-threatening surgeries.

He said 10% of newborn babies in Uganda each year are born with a condition that requires surgery for a child to fully realize their potential but because some don’t access such care they are condemned to live with abnormalities that can be quickly corrected without having to ferry them abroad.

Without such surgeries being done in a timely manner, experts worry that many Ugandans continue falling prey to unscrupulous herbalists who advertise themselves claiming to be able to cure certain surgical conditions without surgeries.

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