At least 300 people from across the country yesterday thronged the University Central Hospital of Kigali (Chuk) for free surgery under the Rotary Medical Mission, an exercise that will run for the next ten days.
More than 17 highly-experienced plastic surgeons from India and Nigeria had by yesterday morning begun a screening exercise while operations started by mid day.
Patients started arriving at the hospital as early as 6am and by 8am; they were in their hundreds most of them already registered for the exercise.
Surgeries to be carried out include different types of reconstructive surgery, hand surgery, microsurgery, and the treatment of burns.
Maritah Kamuyumbu, 65, travelled all the way from Ruhango District in Southern Province and she said it was an opportunity for her to get free medication.
She has an itching scar on her chest as well as a concussion on her head which she said she has had for years due to lack of financial capacity.
“I cannot do any chores at home because of the pain and I did not have money for the operation and I thank God for these people. I hope all goes well,” said the old lady at the scanning room.
According to officials, the initiative is mostly targeting people maimed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Hope for maimed
Statistics indicate that at least 2,900 people disfigured during the Genocide, some of them horribly that they have for years been stigmatised, are yet to receive the corrective procedures.
Ranjit Bhatia, from India, who is the team leader, said they were ready to handle all cases adding that they would devise ways of extending more medical assistance to Rwandans on long-term basis.
Last year, the same team operated on more than 230 patients, including 15 children who were flown to Fortis Hospital in India for heart surgeries. Bhatia said all the operations were successful.
“What we need to do is to strengthen the cooperation between Rwanda and our organisation to ensure more people benefit. The volunteers have come and if it goes well even next year we shall come back,” he said.
Dr Theobald Hategekimana, the director of Chuk, said it was an opportunity to have such experts to conduct procedures on patients, saying the country still faced shortage in this kind of expertise.
“We don’t have enough plastic surgeons in the country but are working on a plan to have a sizable number of our medics trained in this field,” he said.
There is only one plastic surgeon in the country, based at Rwanda Military Hospital, Kanombe.
He said there are some complicated cases that require specialists of which the country is still short of, adding that they intend to have a database of all the people who need operations and develop possible ways of helping them.
Other areas where specialists are still lacking include urology whereby the country has only three as well as neurosurgeons where there are only two experts in the country.
Urology is the branch of medicine that focuses on the surgical and medical diseases of the male and female urinary tract system and the male reproductive organs.
Neurosurgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of disorders which affect any portion of the nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and extra-cranial cerebrovascular system
The exercise is organised by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, as well as Rotary clubs from Kigali, India and Nigeria.