The Ministry of Health (MoH) is considering including eye operation service in the health services package covered by community health insurance scheme Mutuelle de Sante.
The Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare, Patrick Ndimubanzi, revealed this on Saturday in Muhanga District at the inauguration of two new buildings for Kabgayi Hospital. The buildings were constructed with a donation from Kabgayi Diocese.
“An eye operation costs about Rwf2 million, but here at Kabgayi Hospital, it is Rwf320,000. We are going to hold talks with concerned organs to see how the operation can be included in public health insurance,” he said.
There have been concerns in the past that Mutuelle de Santé does not cover certain essential services on grounds that they were expensive yet there is growing need for such services.
The vice-mayor in charge of social affairs in Muhanga District, Fortunée Mukagatana, said: “There are some expensive operations people cannot afford unless they are covered by health insurance.”
So far, 36 medics from 14 district hospitals across the country have trained in ophthalmology at Kabgayi Hospital and the training is set to be a permanent fixture.
Medics said they have previously struggled to detect eye problems due to lack of appropriate equipment, including auto refractors that cost over Rwf66 million.
The ministry sought to empower district hospitals to treat some eye diseases instead of transfering every case to Kabgayi Hospital, an eye referral hospital.
Dr Patrick Muhoza, the Director of Kabgayi Hospital, said the number of eye patients they receive daily was beyond the hospital’s capacity.
“The hospital receives up to 150 eye patients everyday, of which 30 get operated on. We are receiving patients from across the country and this is weighing heavily on us,” he said.
Dr Piet Noe, Director of Eye Unit at Kabgayi Hospital, said 57,000 people are estimated to have visual impairment in the country, with 35,000 of the cases occuring due to cataracts which are preventable.
In 2014, the hospital conducted 43,000 consultations, 4,600 operations of which 2,000 are cataract operations, and gave out 1,900 pairs of glasses to eye patients, according to Noe.
He added that in 2012, the hospital started an eye cancer operation project for children.
“Every month we receive two to three new cases. Before the service was introduced, many children were succumbing to cancer. Now, 50 per cent of them get cured,” he said, adding that the remaining challenge was to detect the disease early enough.
Matata Gapira, from Rubavu District, said her three-year old child developed eye cancer seven months ago, and he was afraid she could not get cured.
“Her right eye could not see, but when she was admitted to Kabgayi Hospital and given treatment, she healed and now she sees properly,” the father said.