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Medical travel: the ups and downs

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Cases of patients, sometimes terminally ill, leaving Botswana to seek specialised or advanced medical care in other countries are common and public knowledge.

Due to the high cost of such specialised medical procedures the appeal for funding brings the patients’ names to the fore. For example, 14-year-old Abbie Ntshabele, who was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer and 11-year-old Molaodi Mahokole, who has been living with Nephrotic Syndrome, a kidney disorder.

According to Dr. Tanushree Gupta from Newlife Health Services in India, a company that offers advisory and consulting services to foreign patients wishing to get treated in India there are various reasons people opt for Medical Travel. “Lack of required medical expertise locally. Unavailability of medical treatment due to regulatory constraints or the high cost of local treatment,” she adds.

More concerns include the unavailability of Healthcare professionals and equipment in African, Arab and CIS Regions. “The high cost of medical treatment in Developed countries, and the waiting-time in getting treatment in countries like UK, Canada and some European Countries,” also add to the reasons people travel for advanced medical treatments as per the doctor’s advice.

She explains that the concept of medical travel was developed ‘automatically’ due to the gap in demand and supply of affordable healthcare services in different regions around the world. Her observation is that with the existence of medical travel patients in the remotest areas of the world can access the best medical treatment available around the world at very ‘affordable prices’.

According to Dr. Gupta African patients, including Batswana go to India for advanced medical treatments like, Heart Surgeries, Orthopaedic Surgeries, Cancer Treatment, IVF Treatment, Liver Transplant, Kidney Transplant, Spinal and Neurology Surgeries, Cosmetic Surgeries, Hair Transplant, Urology, General Medicine, Gynecology, ENT and Ophthalmology. “We receive patients from almost all the African countries but majority (due to population and financial ability) come from Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, DRC, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Sudan”.

Princess Marina Hospital PR representative, Donnel Kutlapye substantiates his Indian based colleague that Batswana are referred to India for organ transplants. “…such as kidney, liver and bone marrow transplants. We have an agreement with Apollo Hospitals (India) to conduct the transplants,” adds Kutlapye.

There are currently 40 patients a week being referred to South Africa according to the Princess Marina PR. The figure is for people sent by Princess Marina Hospital.

The figure for those seeking medical attention at health facilities outside the country on their own accord is not available. “As a hospital we can only advise individuals who make self-referrals to make sure that the health institutions they visit are accredited and internationally recognised. They have to make sure that the treating health professionals are registered with health professions council,” he cautions.

He further shares that there are other conditions which Princess Marina Hospital sends patients outside the country for. “We also refer patients outside the country mainly for specialised Neurosurgery, specialised Cardiology, Paediatric Oncology, specialised Orthopaedics, Opthamology, Hepatobiliary surgery, Pulmonology, Hematology, specialised Neurospine and Endocrinology among others,” explains Kutlapye.

He concurs with the India based medical practitioner that African and Arab regions need to invest in medical equipment and to develop their manpower.
The hospital PR representative also observes that to reduce the number of patients leaving the country, “We also need to improve our retention strategies,” he adds.

Medical Travel like any other phenomenon has its pros and cons. For patients they get the best in the form of medical treatment. The downside however as per Dr. Gupta is that, “The general Healthcare domain, gets a beating as it does not get enough complicated cases to hone their skills. The country as a whole loses Forex due to travel of patients abroad.”

Hence Dr. Gupta advocates for medical collaboration as compared to medical travel. “Under Medical collaboration we can offer Doctors exchange programmes. Indian Doctors can treat or operate all the secondary care patients in their home country.” Kutlapye agrees and shares that, “Government has embarked on recruitment of specialists to work in different hospitals. We also have arrangements where specialists from outside the country conduct procedures/operations locally in our facilities.” Dr. Gupta explains that this type of exchange benefits the local doctors as they learn new medical techniques and procedures.

As to how much you can expect to part with in regards to medical travel services Dr. Gupta explains that the financial cost depends on the illness. A Dental RCT costs less than USD 100. A Liver Transplant can cost up to USD 40,000. “Every other treatment is between Dental RCT and Liver Transplant price.

Average billing of a patient for major Cardiac, Cancer, Orthopedic and Spinal-Neuro Treatment is in the range of USD 5,000 – 10,000. For ENT, Ophthalmology, IVF, Gynaecology, Urology the average billing cost is between USD 2000-5000,” concludes Dr. Gupta.

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Sheila Tlou: I am ready to serve under Masisi

Keletso Thobega

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NOT HAPPY: Sheila Tlou says she gets embarrassed having to continue telling the international community that Botswana is a country of peace while its leaders hackle each other in public

Young people, particularly girl children who want to advance in their careers and participate in governance and leadership should forget about boys and focus on their personal development.

This was said by Sheila Tlou in an interview with The Midweek Sun this week. Tlou was recently listed among the 100 most Influential African women by Avance Media.She was recognised in the Diplomacy category.

Tlou, who is currently the co-chair of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition initiated by UNAIDS and UNFPA, and the co-chair of the Nursing Now Global campaign, has an impressive and well-documented legacy in the health sector that includes a tenure as Minister of Health in Botswana and a stint as chairperson of the African Union ministers of health.
Tlou expressed hope that this award would serve as inspiration for many Batswana who are committed to serving their country diligently in any capacity to persevere and remain steadfast in their chosen fields.

She was positive that more Batswana women would be included in the coming years because “she is not the only one” pointing out that there are many Batswana who are doing great work in development.

Meanwhile, Tlou said she would not turn down President Mokgweetsi Masisi if he were to summon her to take up any role in his administration. “I have a lot of respect for Masisi. I can identify with him as someone who grew up in a rural village and has worked his way to the top,” she said.

She said Masisi could elevate the lives of young people and help them tap into the arts industry, which is a minefield with potential to grow the economy. “He has a background in acting and therefore has an understanding and appreciation for the arts and the contribution they make to not only character building but also economic opportunities,” she said.

She however noted that she had Batswana’s interests at heart and would support anyone voted to be president. She did not want to be drawn into the feud between Masisi and former President Ian Khama as well as the infightings that have seen the BDP dealing with yet another breakaway party and mass resignations but pointed out that like all other Batswana, her hope is that the two individuals would resolve their issues and bury the hatchet.

“As a Motswana who travels across the world, I spread the message of how our country is a land of peace and tranquillity. What is happening obviously does not sit well with me especially as civil developments are not taking place.

“We need to focus on the needs of people rather than the needs of individuals. That said, I look forward to elections and working on the national mandate to improve the lives of Batswana. I hope that whoever loses will hold their horses and support the elected President of our country.”

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‘Come back home,’ Masisi to Khama

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COME BACK BOSS: Masisi wants Khama back at BDP

President Mokgweetsi Masisi is gravely worried about his predecessor Ian Khama finding a new home in the opposition block.

Khama ditched Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) early this year indicating that the party has lost focus and was no longer welcoming. He left the BDP following his protracted standoff with Masisi after the latter assumed state presidency.

Masisi told a BDP gathering this past Saturday in Goodhope when launching Parliamentary candidate for the constituency Eric Molale and his councillors that he feels sorry for Khama. According to Masisi, the opposition especially Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), is abusing and using the former president for their gain in the coming general elections. Khama, who is founding Patron of Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) has revealed that his party will work with the UDC to ensure that the BDP loses the election.

Khama has explained that they have no problems with some of the BDP candidates that they are targeting, but rather their leader.While some BDP members now feel that Khama is better-placed with the opposition rank given his unwavering attacks on the ruling party, Masisi wants him back ‘home.’ “It is heartbreaking to see how the opposition is treating him. Those people do not love him. If there are people who love him, it is us at the BDP.

“They are abusing him. You have to pray for him to come back home where he belongs. Churches and diviners have to do something about the situation so that he would see the light and return home,” said Masisi.

The president feared that the opposition is using Khama for political mileage and would dump him after the general elections. He called on Batswana to give his party another chance at the polls so that he could execute his mandate of uplifting the lives of Batswana. According to Masisi only the BDP has the interests of the country and its citizens at heart.

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