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At 60, UCH excels in neurosurgery, care for aged — Prof Temitope Alonge

By Sola Ogundipe

SIXTY years after it was opened by Princess Margaret on November 20, 1957, the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Nigeria’s premier tertiary hospital, has etched its name in gold through pioneering numerous medical advances.

Widely celebrated as a Centre of Medical Excellence more than any other Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, UCH scores yet another first as it marks its 60th anniversary with the commissioning of the Sir Kessington Adebutu Geriatric Centre, which is 1st Geriatric Rehabilitation Centre offering long- term care in West Africa.

HOSPITAL TOUR: Centre: Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Prof. Temitope Alonge explaining a point during a tour of the Chief Tony Anenih Genriatric Centre recently.

Already, UCH is the first tertiary hospital to have a hospice and palliative care. In 2012, it opened the Chief Tony Anenih Geriatric Centre, which is the first of such in Africa. In its five years of existence, the Centre has treated 13,000 new cases and attended to 30,000 follow up cases.

The Centre is unique in so many ways, providing care for people above 60 years old and has entertained the high and mighty in society.

Disclosing these and more to Good Health Weekly, the Medical Director, UCH, Professor Temitope Alonge  remarked that the tertiary teaching hospital has a history of excellence.

“In the 1970s, UCH was ranked amongst the first five teaching hospitals in the Commonwealth, and in 2010, was ranked No. 3 in Africa and 1st in Nigeria. Tomorrow, the Sir Kessington Geriatric Centre, which is first Geriatric Rehab Centre that is offering long-term care will be commissioned opposite the Chief Tony Anenih  Geriatric Centre.

“We look at the end of life care for patients in the hospital and outside of the hospital. Our team goes out to visit patients that are terminally ill and offer them care in their bedrooms until they finally pass away to the great beyond. This service is 2nd to none and I believe this has given us an edge over a lot of our competitors.”

Speaking further about the Geriatric Centre, Alonge said the services are heavily subsidized. “Those that make use of the Centre pay just 50 per cent of the cost but get the full services. It was deliberately planned to be like that by this administration because most of the patients are pensioners and really do not have the resources to pay.

“To make matters easier, we set up an insurance scheme for them at N18,000 per year or N1,500 per month and every year, the hospital adopts 100 of these elderly patients who cannot pay. They send us their names and we register them on the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, and they get free treatment. All their drugs including cataract treatment are free.”

As part of the 60th anniversary celebrations, free meals are to be offered to patients of the rehabilitation centre for one month.

“In 60 years, we have attained accolades in many areas that I believe that UCH has the best neurosurgery training system in the country and almost 80 per cent of neurosurgeons in the country are trained at UCH, which to date, is the first and preferred choice for training in residency and for healthcare delivery. We are top heavy in terms of expertise possessing departments that do not exist in other hospitals.

“The UCH is the first teaching hospital to have a nuclear medicine department in 2006 where therapeutic and diagnostic treatment offer nuclear medicine techniques; UCH is the first to have a Cat lab and cardiac ICU of modern day pattern and was opened in 2012. No other teaching hospital in Nigeria has such facility.

“We have advanced beyond brain craniotomy and now do what is called Awake craniotomy. The patient is wide awake while the surgery is being done and there is less chance of complication. We have now gone to day case neurosurgical practice, whereby the patient will have the surgery done in the morning, and by late evening, the patient can go home and can be managed effectively.”

Excellence in Neurosurgery

To enumerate the strongest selling attribute of the premier teaching hospital in the area of neurosurgical services,  Alonge recounted  the Endoscopic 3rd ventriculostomy system propagated by a clinician – Professor Temitayo Shokunbi.

“This is a special technique in which we put a stethoscope through the nose of a baby that has a big head, due to excess water called hydrocephalus. We drill and create a shunt for the water to drain out without any harm to the child. The brain or the head will get smaller without having to cut the head open. Prof. Shokunbi popularized the technique and it has become a reference point in Nigeria.”

Further, Alonge told Good Health Weekly  how UCH pioneered another advanced neurological procedure called Awake Craniotomy.

“Nobody else does Awake Craniotomy in Nigeria. It is reserved for those lesions where you really need to take extra caution particularly if they are close to vital areas.

“The decision to do Awake Craniotomy comes when you have a tumour that is close to a vital organ or vital component of the brain, if you put the patient to sleep, you may not be able to tell during your tumour excision if you have actually damaged the centre for breathing or eye opening or eating or drinking.”

Alonge said the procedure is also used to decompress the brain.

“When somebody comes in with a head injury and there is a lot of swelling in the brain, we do not put them to sleep. There is a way we deaden the skull and the scalp and can cut a hole in the skull (decompressive craniotomy) and the swelling of the brain has room to expand and risk of sudden death and disappears.

“Even though I am othopaedic surgeon, I must confess that the trio of Decompressive Craniotomy, Awake Craniotomy and Endoscopic  3rd ventriculostomy  proudly put  neurosurgery services in the UCH at the top echelon beyond anyone else.  “In 60 years, we have come around to evaluate what we do. In the next 60 years, we intend to be a quaternary healthcare provider. This means we want to go into paediatric intensive care unit before the end of the year,  we intend to do foetal surgery.”


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