Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Doctors at Mulago Specialized National Referral hospital have urged the public to periodically go for wellness checks of their digestive system in the wake of an increase in gastrointestinal illnesses especially among young people.
Speaking at the closure of a free medical camp that happened at the hospital this week as part of the events to reopen the Gastro-intestinal unit after six years of closure for renovation, Dr. Josephant Jombwe who heads the unit said over 500 people came through for checkup.
Of those, he said 120 needed a thorough examination called endoscopy which involves using an instrument introduced into the body either through the mouth or the anus to give a view of internal parts.
He said 30 of those that underwent this examination were for the first time diagnosed with advanced cancers along the digestive system whereby some had cancers of the throat, the colon and others of the intestines. They didn’t know they had cancer.
He says one ought to do an endoscopy every after two years for wellness purposes. But even as this is recommended, the test remains expensive for many. Even at Mulago hospital, the service is not entirely free since for the upper endoscopy, one has to part with more than Shs 100,000 and the colonoscopy goes for up to Shs 300,000. This however is way low compared to the few private health facilities that offer the service at an average of shs 400,000 for the upper test and Shs 800,000 for the lower test.
Dr. Rose Mary Byanyima, the Deputy Executive Director of Mulago hospital says the cost especially at the government facility is driven by high level of the maintainance required. Also she said the hospital has now acquired the latest high tech equipment which requires expensive reagents to run.
The new unit has been completed at cost of around a million dollars, Byanyima told Uganda Radio Network (URN) on Saturday that they have set up three endoscopy towers which can handle the about 50 patients targeted to visit the facility every day. One of the towers was a donation from the Korean government. For just maintenance of the new facility, Mulago is planning to spend 5 to 10% of the cost of the facility periodically.