A team of health professionals at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) has performed kidney transplants on two patients, the first of such operation by a local team in the country.
The Ghanaian team, including specialist doctors, nurses and anesthetists, performed the procedures on July 4 and 5, this year, and the patients, both of them males, are currently recovering at the facility.
Their donors, who are females, are also doing well and have so far been discharged.
Two foreigners, a theatre technician and a transplant surgeon, were available as confidence boosters for the team.
Each surgery is estimated to cost $21,000.
The surgeries were sponsored by the First Sky Group, an indigenous private company.
The hospital is expected to perform three additional surgeries next month with sponsorship by the First Sky Group.
The breakthrough will save patients a great deal, as many of them had resorted to either India or South Africa for such surgeries which cost more than $250,000.
At a media briefing to announce the success chalked up by the KBTH and its team of professionals, a urologist, Professor Mathew Kyei, said after accessing its capacity as a facility, the hospital found that it could perform three surgeries monthly and, therefore, although six people had been prepared for surgery, only three would be undertaken next month.
Currently, he said, there were about 1,000 people on dialysis in various hospitals across the country.
However, at the KBTH, the First Sky Group sponsors 250 patients to go through dialysis three times every week.
The Head of the Department of Surgery, KBTH, Professor James Edward Mensah, who gave an update on the two patients, said their bodies had responded to the transplant and that 24 hours after the first surgery, the first patient started producing urine which was a good sign that his body had aligned with the new kidney.
He said so far, an ethical committee, made up of surgeons, lawyers and other professionals, had been put in place to come up with guidelines to ensure that the hospital did not run into any legal tussle in its kidney transplantation.
The committee, Prof. Mensah said, would make sure that donors were adequately counselled and briefed and also ensure that there was no financial coercion involved.
First Sky Group
The Executive Chairman of the First Sky Group, Eric Seddy Kutortse, at the briefing, said his company had since 2016 been supporting patients at the KBTH to undergo dialysis and it had so far spent GH¢30 million on this quest.
Also, he said earlier, the group had sponsored three patients to undergo kidney transplant in India at a cost of $250,000 for each patient and their donors.
Mr Kutortse added that a team from Birmingham in the United Kingdom were brought into the country in 2019 to perform four kidney transplant surgeries.
He explained that due to the high cost of the procedure, the group decided to support the KBTH to undertake local kidney transplants to reduce cost and also help more people to benefit from free kidney transplants.
The Executive Chairman of the First Sky Group gave the assurance that his group would continue to provide free dialysis to its beneficiaries at the KBTH and provide free kidney transplants to beneficiaries who met the KBTH criteria for surgery.
Mr Kutortse said the First Sky Group, together with the KBTH, had put in place a working committee for the establishment of an ultra modern kidney transplant centre which would be fully funded by the company.
The Head of Nephrology, KBTH, Prof. Vincent Boima, who gave the advantages of renal transplant, said Ghana was one of the highest burdened countries in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of kidney diseases.
He said the youth were the most affected, with an age range of 20 to 50 years, saying although it was a preventable disease, not much had been done about it.
Prof. Boima stated that kidney failure was a silent disease which was mostly caused by lifestyle and the environment.
Most patients, he added, did not know about their status until the last stages of the disease which then required them to undergo dialysis three times every week.
The KBTH Head of Nephrology said transplantation was cost-effective and patients could go back to their normal lives, but because it could not be done in the country, it ended up increasing the cost for patients who had to travel with their donors.
Prof. Boima said the ultimate aim of the KBTH was to ensure that no patient travelled outside the country for kidney or any other transplant.
“We have the team, we have the men”, he said.
The CEO of KBTH, Dr Opoku Ware Ampomah, who spoke on the future of transplantation in KBTH, said the facility had one of the best qualified human resources on the continent but said resources were, however, a challenge which had led to many of its people leaving in droves for greener pastures.
He said to ensure that transplantation had a legal backing in the country, the facility was rooting for the development of a legal framework for organ donation and harvesting so that people could donate their organs when they died.
Currently, although KBTH could perform cornea transplantation, it had to import the cornea, a situation Dr Ampomah said, could easily be resolved if there was a legislation in place.
“The skills are there, expertise is there but we need an enabling environment for transplant services”, he said.
The CEO of KBTH commended the First Sky Group for its support to KBTH to help kidney patients, adding that only a few patients could afford the surgery.