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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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Police blast man with fire extinguisher

The MidweekSun Admin

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Life has not been easy for Rakhuna man, Gaitsiwe Moroka since a police officer blast a fire extinguisher in his face at a roadblock near Pitsane this year on April 25.

The police were on duty and as a norm, they were checking for among others, the presence of a functional fire extinguisher in a kombi which Moroka and other five other passengers and their driver were using. When The Midweek Sun interviewed him on Monday, pain was written all over his face.
His is a clear sign of depression.

“My life changed drastically this year after the incident. I was on my way from signing an agreement for a tender with Botswana Defence Force camp when the police stopped our kombi at a road block in Pitsane. There was a long debate between the two police officers and our driver about the functionality of the fire extinguisher.
All of a sudden, one of the officers sprayed the fire extinguisher without checking if it was functional or not, and he directed the nozzle inside the kombi,” he said, adding that he was on his way to Lobatse where he stays.

High Court papers dated August 30, 2018 show that Mfosi Legal Attorneys are handling the case in which the victim is suing the BPS for an amount of P2.84 million.
He says although there other passengers in the kombi, he was the one most affected. The High Court documents state that the police officer did not even bother to check on the health of the commuters nor apologise for his extremely dangerous negligent act.

The kombi would then leave for Lobatse and just before it arrived, the plaintiff’s claim notes that it was apparent that the powder had affected his sight and he started regurgitating unabated, lost consciousness and woke up at Athlone Hospital with an oxygen mask strapped to his face and intravenous drip in his arm.

“To date, Moroka, 40, has a constant whooping cough and has been informed by doctors that it will take several years for the noxious elements used in the fire extinguisher to completely be flushed from his body,” says the summons, further stating that doctors had also detected likelihood of asthma.

It says that due to the gross negligence of the police, Moroka is currently unable to work, let alone work around dust. This, it says, has caused a great financial burden on him due to the fact that he is a builder by profession, and is not able to take care of his two minor children. Moroka, according to the sheet, has developed a very itchy rash all over his skin since the incident.
“What is more disconcerting is that the police have never bothered to check on the health of the plaintiff or even issued an official apology. Thus his compensation demands include gross negligence at P1 million, pain and suffering at P1 million, loss of income at P84. 200.00 and cost of the suit
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‘I feel weak’ For Moroka, the incident has left him helpless. He has given up on life and wishes himself dead. “I’m always thinking about killing myself but I always think about my two children. If I die anytime, Batswana must know that government killed me. I have no food, no income but I am a man. I believe in using my hands and legs but now my health does not permit me to walk in the sun. I’m supposed to be resting but I’m now giving up on life,” he said.

He won the children’s custody after his divorce three years ago. He is now afraid that he would lose the children because he cannot afford to take care of them. “My life is stuck. I’m sad and empty, and in deep pain. My lungs are weak. Police do not care about me after what they did to me and I’m now on my own. Government clinics do not have all the medication and my sprays, and I have to travel to Molepolole at times. My bones are always in pain and I am now on a special diet which I can’t afford,” he said.

His comprehensive report card shows a dysfunction in the heart, lungs, bones, skin and eye and makes an expert advice which is basically expensive diet and resting most of the time. Several times he had fainted while walking and at one time it happened while he was in Mafikeng, visiting a relative. He was admitted at a local clinic.
Doctors that have been attending to him since the dreadful incident that shows a common denominator of Carbon dioxide inhalation that affected his skin, sight and respiratory system. He has started counselling at SBRANA Psychiatric Hospital.

He said that efforts to seek help from BPS Commissioner KeabetsweMakgophe were futile. “I’m always told he is away,” he said. BPS Assistant Commissioner Dipheko Motube could not respond to questions sent by this reporter by press time.

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Botswana Creative Business Cup winner, Mmono joins global comp. in Denmark

Keletso Thobega

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Botswana Creative Business Cup Nicolette Chinomona says that government should channel funding and business support among youth towards the creative industry instead of focusing on traditional sectors.

This year’s winner of the cup is Lebogang Mmono of Just Ginger Beverages. Chinomona told The Midweek Sun that she applied for the license of the international entrepreneurship competition because she noticed that local entrepreneurs, particularly youth, were not getting the necessary support.

“I wanted to help develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country by generating attention for startups that aren’t traditional, that are in the creative space and think out of the box; because there isn’t enough risk appetite for supporting those kinds of startups”, she said.

Chinomona said that government has been quite deliberate in helping businesses start-ups, but the key challenge is that the government has to use the resources it has to fund business models that it feels can succeed and become a core part of the economy.

“A lot of potential sponsors and funders are intimidated at the prospect of putting money into a local enterprise.”Chinomona said that it was only entrepreneurship that could change the economic dynamics of Batswana’s lives. “As a society we need to change the narrative around entrepreneurship, we need to begin to acknowledge that while entrepreneurial paths are fraught with risks and challenges, that entrepreneurship is also a huge part of developing a sustainable economy.

“We need to be realistic, not everyone can have a conventional white-coller career. Someone has to produce the goods that people with careers want to spend their money on and entrepreneurs can make an excellent living and even thrive on that. I believe that changing the conversation around this means pushing back on the idea that failures become entrepreneurs.”

Chinomona said since working with young entrepreneurs, she had noticed that one of the key things that they say they need is mentorship. “A lot of them have the raw skill but they don’t have the business skills to be able to sell what they can easily make.

“And also they are hungry for community and collaboration, because being an entrepreneur can be isolating and discouraging.” Meanwhile, Mmono is preparing to take part in the global competition in Copenhagen, Denmark next month. She said she hoped to network and find ways to break into the global business sector by selling her uniquely Botswana products and partnering with other entrepreneurs.

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