The health ministry admitted Saturday that had it not been for the free treatment program of the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), many patients would not access urgent surgeries.
Currently, 60 percent of people who require critical surgery do not get it in time, according to Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the State Minister of State in Charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care.
He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a two-day Incision Global Surgery Symposium that opened today in Kigali.
This symposium has attracted more than 400 delegates from 15 countries including specialists, practicing surgeons and surgery students – to address what the symposium has themed: “Neglected Step child”.
Surgery is called as such because governments and policymakers are so transfixed in other areas that it has been ignored yet very crucial to the health system, says Arsene Muhumuza, head of Incision Rwanda.
For example, in Rwanda alone, figures indicate there are only 75 surgeons – covering a 12m population.
World Health Organization (WHO) standards have put the workable ratio at one surgeon par 10,000 people.
State Minister Dr Ndimubanzi said the need for surgery is indeed big to handle common conditions such as cancers, eye surgery, throat complications and accident victims.
“The numbers we have now show that 60% of patients don’t get surgery in time, but with the intervention of the Citizen outreach program of RDF, the number is decreasing,” said Dr Ndimubanzi.
According to Prof. Dr Martin Nyundo, the head of Rwanda Surgical Society and Head of Clinical service division at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK); “We need at least five times the number of current surgeons”.
Government says it has put in place various short term mechanisms to deal with urgent medical needs like the Army’s program which organizes treatment caravans that travel from district to another, giving free surgeries.
RDF conducts the program every year – lasting months. This week, it was in Burera district where 800 people received various surgeries.
There is also a surgery program at the University of Rwanda
Incision Rwanda boasts a membership of 200 students, 60 residents or interns in sugery, and 30 mentors.