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Heart operations abroad to end soon

By Joan Akello

Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) is in the process of commissioning its medical compressed air plant and a vacuum extraction pump. This comes at the time Mulago National Referral is building an oxygen plant.

Dr. Omagino. O.O John, UHI Director, signed a 2.4 Million Shillings cheque instructing British Oxygen Company (BOC, Kenya) to supply it with 12 cylinders of compressed medical air. This might be Omagino’s last cheque to BOC.


“If I do not pay this cheque today, I will have dead bodies, Dr. Omagino said, “Our (UHI) shortcoming is measured in terms of dead bodies.”

To be able to conduct an open heart surgery, an institute must have the capacity to support life artificially in terms of strategic human resource and needs three main gases; vacuum for sucking secretions; compressed medical air (400 Pascals) to provide pressure and tide the percentage of oxygen required and oxygen. The hospital imports all the three gases but soon,  will produce these at UHI and in the new oxygen plant.

Omagino told the Independent that the UHI medical gas plant set up cost $200,000 for the three gases, and procured theatre light at $70,000 and the monitor (cameras to relay for teaching and reviewing).

This medical compressed air is vital for running equipment in the theatre and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) such as the ventilators, the heart-lung machine, gas sterilization, anaesthesia machines and cardiac catheterization machines.

“The equipped theatre is the Gulf Stream of heart surgery, Omagino said, “It is what has been taking people abroad.”

He says the newly installed theatres will be operational through out the week and therefore conduct more operations and reduce the number of heart operations from abroad. He says the institute has been carrying out operations on the brain, heart and chest once a week because it would share a theatre with other departments.

The institute has the capacity to carry out five operations daily, 15 weekly and therefore can operate on 1,080 patients annually (on the lower side).

“If you sent a patient abroad, you will spend $20,000. Government will spend $20,000,000 for 1,000 such patients,” Omagino adds, “However, if the institute works on these patients, it will cost a maximum of $ 5,000,000 per year.”

Omagino says sending a heart patient abroad is quadruple the cost of a local operation and that there is a need to train more super specialists. He says the community is very excited and is willing to visit their loved ones at the institute but only a few can go with patients abroad.

He added that new developments at the institute will reduce capital flight and brain drain, attract referrals and incomes from neighbouring countries.

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