Kidney surgery good news for Kenyans

The Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) has once again achieved a major medical breakthrough. It has won recognition from far and wide for performing its first largely technology-assisted kidney transplant.

This new type of surgery is expected to revolutionise care and give a new lease of life to kidney patients. The surgeons performed laparoscopic (keyhole surgery), aided by new advances in engineering and computer technology.

It is a significant achievement, as the most common treatment has been open heart surgery, which not only requires longer healing times, but also leaves both donor and recipient with large scars after the operation.

Experts say that five million Kenyans are living with kidney disease, but some are unaware of this as the symptoms take long to show. Some 7,000 Kenyans are undergoing renal dialysis, with many going abroad for treatment and costly surgery.

Last August, KNH specialists recorded another milestone by enabling an unborn baby with a blood disorder to receive a transfusion in the womb. And a month later, the hospital’s top medics successfully carried out a delicate operation to save the limb of a 20-year-old cancer patient.

It is gratifying to take note of these achievements. Such operations cost an arm and a leg when patients travel overseas for such specialised treatment and surgery. It is, however, important to point out that, as our “Broken System” series found out recently, KNH still has a lot to do to improve its services.

There are now several referral teaching hospitals around the country that provide such diagnoses and medical treatment. However, there is still a need for the counties to invest more in training skilled manpower and acquiring the latest medical equipment to make this possible.

After all, healthcare is a devolved function even though the policy, recruitment and staffing are still done at the national level through the Ministry of Health.

The health reforms planned by the government should address these challenges to enable the implementation of the latest trends and technological developments in medicine.