By Chioma Obinna
The Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, in collaboration with a US-based Non-Governmental Organisation, VOOM Foundation, has successfully carried out cardiac surgeries on five indigent patients under an ongoing free cardiac mission.
The Chief Medical Director, LASUTH, Prof. Adewale Oke, told journalists during a press conference that all expenses were paid by the state government.
“We have had five patients operated on; all in varying heart disorders and I’m pleased to inform you we had 100 per cent success rate. This will enable us inform Nigerians that we have the facility and also, hopefully attract well meaning Nigerians so that they can sponsor missions such as this.
“We have over 1,000 patients who have various heart disorders and if a Nigerian can sponsor programmes like this, it will also help develop our capacity.
The mission offered the local surgeons in the hospital opportunity to improve their skills.
Speaking, the Head of LASUTH Cardiothoracic department, Dr Bode Falase, explained that heart diseases that could be surgically corrected accounted for about one-third of cardiac disorders in Nigeria.
Falase who is also a Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon and one of the lead doctors who carried out the surgeries, said carrying out an open-heart surgery in the country requires finance and could cost as much as N10 million.
“Not everybody can afford it, because the finances range from institutions having the equipment, facilities, trained personnel, enabling environment, administration, to funding. So, where things often fall apart is who pays.
“Up till now, missions are extremely useful, because it offers the government an opportunity to offer free surgeries to a number of individuals. But looking at the big picture, when you do free surgeries, how many people benefit and how many do we know that need surgery?
“So, going forward, we encourage philanthropists, well-meaning Nigerians to sponsor patients and by so doing, we can help more patients. People need to be aware and have access to a facility to see a doctor who can make diagnosis,“ Falase said.
On his part, one of the visiting doctors, Dr Reza Khodaverdian, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, VOOM Foundation, said the main defect in the Nigerian health system was open-heart surgery, which is why the mission is taking place.
“I am impressed with the leadership of the hospital, the physicians and clinicians on how they care for the patients. We as doctors are in the business that cares for patients. You cannot pay people to care, it has to be inside them and I see such in your staff, “ he said.
In his remarks, Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Health, Dr Sola Pitan, said if people were healthy, they are more productive, which in turn means the economy will keep improving.
“In Nigeria, to get to do an open heart surgery ranges between N3 million and N9 million depending on the area, what kind of surgery and a host of other factors. ‘The Foundation brought a lot of materials including consumables valued close to $300,000 and that will still benefit several other patients,“ he said.
One of the beneficiaries, a post-graduate student, Miss Naomi Okeria said that she discovered she had a hole in the heart after a medical check-up done in 2017.
“During my Master’s degree, one of the requirements was a medical check-up and it was discovered that I had an enlargement of the heart. I was then referred to LASUTH and told to carry out other tests which then revealed that I had a hole in my heart.
“I was told the surgery would cost N2.5 million which became bothersome to me, because I did not have such money to pay. To my amazement, my doctor told me that the state governor had paid for my surgery. I was so happy and glad that I could have the surgery done.“
Another patient, 44-year-old Mrs Ada Oviosu, said all her expenses were returned. “I discovered I had a heart disorder when I was 27 years old.
“I started visiting the hospital to manage it by taking my drugs which cost between N6,000 and N7,000 and lasted for about two weeks. I did not have money nor anyone to help me with finance and so when I was told my surgery would be free, I was so excited. I am grateful to the team who made this possible,“ she said.
Mr Malaisa Mustapha-Isa, said his wife, Aisha developed heart problem after their last baby was born in 2013.
“She was on medication to the extent that we started to look for ways to travel abroad to get the surgery done. Fortunately for us, my doctor in Kano referred us to LASUTH. “The doctors told us about the foundation that would help in carrying out the surgery; But we were about to pay some money when we were told that the surgery would be free. We were so happy. My wife is recovering now and we thank the Governor for the kind gesture. This mission is a clear indication that our leaders should wake up. People are dying, especially, in the health centres. People do not have money to pay for treatment. I am calling on the leaders to invest more in the health sector. It is key to saving more lives. “