President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday made an impassioned appeal to Tanzania’s development partners to help in the detection and treatment of heart-related diseases, which he said were costing the country’s economy heavily.
Opening an international cardiovascular diseases conference in Dar es Salaam, President Kikwete said many Tanzanians — men and women - were dying of heart-related diseases annually, a trend which required effective interventions and strategic support of development partners in order to reverse it.
“In fact, the number of deaths caused by cardiovascular complications is quite alarming, and our capacity to control this situation is very low,” the president said at the official opening of the first international conference on cardiovascular diseases, organised jointly by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and US-based international organization, dubbed “Madaktari Africa.”
“Across the East African region, cardiovascular-related deaths is on the increase due to many factors, including changing lifestyles,” he added.
With reference to Tanzania, Kikwete said the problem was compounded by critical shortage of appropriate diagnosis, equipment (and facilities), treatment and competent human resources.
“Because of these shortfalls, lives of millions are now at risk. We thank Madaktari Africa for their support, through this programme, in building human resource capacity of our health experts,” said President at the two-day training programme which drew participants from Africa countries and beyond.
He explained that the government of Tanzania was trying to address shortage of cardiology professionals by sending some of the heath experts for studies abroad. The strategy enables local health experts acquire required skills and knowledge for detection and treatment of cardiovascular cases.
In his remarks, Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr Haji Mponda said Tanzania was leading in sending heart patients to India for treatment of cardiovascular related complications.
“These patients account for about 60 per cent of all patients referred outside the country for medical care,” he said.
Latest government reports show that a lot of money is being spent to facilitate treatment of heart patients outside the country, thus holding back the country’s economic growth and development.
According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Blandina Nyoni, during the last financial year, the government spent about 9bn/- for treatment of heart patients abroad, particularly India.
“And during this financing year ending in July, my ministry is expecting to spend 13bn/-for financing treatment of heart patients outside the country. This is a huge burden to the country’s economy…,” said Nyoni in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the meeting.
She described the on-going training programme, which is facilitated by cardiovascular specialists from different parts of the world, as a potent tool for building capacity of Tanzanian health experts in the detection and treatment of hearts-related complications.
Nyoni said the government was finalising construction of a complex for cardiac surgery, treatment and training at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), which is expected to be officially inaugurated soon.
“We are now equipping the complex with proper, modern and standard facilities before the official opening…again, this is part of long-term measures undertaken by the government to build national capacity in taking care of cardiovascular cases, thereby saving billions used for treating these patients abroad,” she noted.
In April, 2009 Madaktari Afrika signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to build local capacity in training, equipment, research, data analysis and publications of cases related to cardiovascular diseases, according to Dr Mponda.