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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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BRING IT ON Ignatius Moswaane ready to serve Francistown West again

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READY TO LEAD AGAIN: Francistown West MP Ignatius Moswaane

Ignatius Moswaane is a former Francistown City Mayor and he served as Monarch Councillor until he took over the reigns as Francistown West constituency in 2014. The constituency had been in the hands of the late Tshelang Masisi before Moswaane took over.

Now the outspoken MP is ready to defend it.
He lists the construction of an additional secondary school at Gerald Estate, the undertaking of a P36 million streetlights project and construction of a road network at Monarch among some of his achievements both as Councillor and later MP.

“The peripheral servicing of the planned Central Business District (CBD) at Gerald Estate has been completed.  “Over and above that we have used the P10 million community development money from government to build houses, some of which we are renting out to public servants.“We have divided the constituency into three (3) clusters and each will have a multi-purpose recreational hall,” said the Botswana Democratic (BDP) Member of Parliament (MP).

He added that Gerald Estates and Phase 6 in Monarch will soon have a local center each owned by the VDC which will lease the shopping area to business. Moswaane initiated Monarch Development Centre to help the youth access government economic projects by, among other things, doing business plans for them for free. His next phase is to push for industrialisation of Francistown by using local resources. “Besides, Francistown must become an industrial hub for the region where, instead of SADC countries going all the way to Johannesburg and Durban to collect their cargo, the cargo is brought to the Francistown airport from their source be it Asia, or where ever by plane for the owner to collect the cargo here.

Our airport is under-utilised at the moment,” he noted. Another way of creating employment is for government to increase its efforts of using ISPAAD to help small scale farmers next to Francistown to grow fruits and vegetables to the extent that we do not import anything. Moswaane regrets government’s slow pace on allocating plots at Gerald Estates. “Since 2012 some 2500 plots have been serviced yet a lot of people from as far back as 1990s are on the waiting list because government is yet to allocate the plots.

The Minister had promised that the process would commence in December last year but nothing has thus far happened. If elected, I will follow up on the matter,” pledged the MP. He is also of the view that more resources should be invested in Nyangabgwe to make it a health facility of choice. “It should be turned into a state of the art hospital where special medical care is provided to attract even people from outside the country. The residents of Francistown need a district hospital,” he observed.

If he returns to parliament, Moswaane will move that the Youth Development Fund (YDF) be increased from P120million to P1billion and the Gender Economic Empowerment Fund from P50 million to P1 billion as well. Moswaane believes the country should build more technical colleges and brigades to carter for the thousands of students who leave school every year without the necessary grade needed as the entry threshold to tertiary schools.

In 2014, Moswane garnered 5304 votes against second-placed Habaudi Hobona of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) who was voted in by 3461 voters. UDC was represented by Shatiso Tambula who managed a paltry 950 votes. This year Moswaane will have to fend off competition from Dira Moalosi of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Mbaakanyi Lenyatso of the UDC.

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FREE AT LAST: LGBTI persons celebrate

Yvonne Mooka

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CELEBRATION TIME: The LGBT community celebrated the historic ruling on same sex romance this Tuesday

Thapelo Matshameko, a transgender woman who last year was attacked at Trekkers night club in Gaborone is over the moon about the High Court ruling that overturned a law that criminalised same sex relations.

A trans-woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth. In response to the ruling, she told The Midweek Sun that even though she has had it tough before with people calling her ‘Brazen’ and to stop behaving like a woman, she is now happy that the law recognises that they exist. She said that Batswana are now becoming tolerant towards Lesbians Gays Bisexual Transgender and Intersex persons.

“Recently I went out for dinner with my bae, and I came all the way from my house wearing a dress. People that know me loved it and my boyfriend loved it even more,” she says, adding that the verdict will also help other LGBTI persons that are in the closet to come out.

In a previous interview Metshameko pleaded for assistance from members of the public to help her do a surgery that would make her a complete woman. For Motswakgakala Sithole also known as Motswafere in music circles, the ruling shows that Botswana is one step closer to gay marriages.

“Thank you to all the visible gay people. We take punches for those hiding and those shaming us for being visible and exercising our rights. You guys attended court cases with pride and you have carried us to freedom,” he said.

He also thanked Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), lawyers in the case, the media, and friends of the LGBTI community for their support. Phio Kenosi who identifies as trans non-binary asexual woma-romantic, (romantically attracted to the feminine essence), was also ecstatic.

“It is obviously showing that we are moving in a new direction that is positive and inclusive towards sexual and gender minority,” he said.

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