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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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BMC secures beef market in Seychelles

Dikarabo Ramadubu

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Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) will soon start to sell its beef to the Island of Seychelles. Not only will they sell frozen raw meat, but will also send corned beef for trial in the Island.

All this is thanks to last week’s visit by President Mokgweetsi Masisi who included in his delegation executive management of the BMC, led by Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale.
The agreement signed between BMC and two leading Seychelles companies, will see BMC exporting at least 48 tonnes of raw beef to the island possibly from October. The names of the two companies that BMC signed an agreement with are Seychelles Trading Company which is a quasi-government organisation, and Rosebelle Company which is privately owned.

Although both have agreed to trade with each other, BMC cannot start immediately, as they have to wait for the green light from Seychelles companies who still have to apply for import permits in accordance with the law of their republic.

Speaking to The Midweek Sun, Tombale expressed gratitude that they managed to get good business in Seychelles through the assistance of President Masisi. “We are ready to export any time from now. As you know Seychelles is an island surrounded by mountains and cannot produce much if not anything. “They therefore depend much on imports even from as far as Brazil and Europe. Their economy is driven by tourism and they do not differ much with the European market in terms of the demand for beef as most tourists come from Europe and United States.”

Dr. Tombale said they agreed with the two companies that since “we are not sure about the logistics we will start by selling 24tonnes to each company per month, meaning we will be supplying the Island with a total of 48 tonnes per month. The idea is to start small and grow bigger as the people get used to our beef.” BMC has also negotiated to sell small stock meat to Seychelles and successfully negotiated for local chicken farmers to start selling their range chicken to Seychelles as well.

According to Tombale, he negotiated the deal after being approached by local chicken farmers amongst them Kgosi Mosadi Seboko of Balete, who requested that “we should try to find a market for chicken farmers as we go around the world searching for the beef market.” Tombale revealed that for a start both range chickens and small stock will not be supplied in tonnes or large quantities as they will be sold on a trial basis.

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G-west community reunion-walk a resounding success

Keletso Thobega

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Multitudes turned up for the Mosengwaketsi community walk and braai session this past Saturday in Gaborone West. The walk was held in the morning and was preceded by football games and a braai session that went on until late in the evening.

According to the event director Tshenolo Palai, the aim of the community day event was to revive community spirit and address crime and social ills. “The Mosengwaketsi community reunion will be held not only to create a platform to build unity but also address the social ill of passion killings,” he said.

Palai said that they had also invited health stakeholders for a wellness segment because they had realised that there are many health related conditions that affect the quality of people’s lives hence they had joined forces with religious organisations, the business community, neighbourhood outreach policing and other stakeholders in the area to encourage a culture of unity and create dialogue between all the parties.

He noted that they had wanted to create a relaxed environment conducive for different people to engage and strengthen their networks. He said they were also concerned with the high rate of crimes of passion in Botswana and also wanted to create a platform for both men and women to open up on issues that affect them because most people tend to be more relaxed in a social setting.

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