The number of cardiac patients on the treatment waiting list has decreased significantly in Kenya over the past one year.
The number which stood at 1,435 last year has decreased by 262 since the inception of the cardiac programme by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) mid last year.
The revelation was made by NHIF CEO, Geoffrey Mwangi during the [email protected] Cardiac Conference held at a Nairobi Hotel on Thursday. So far 179 open heart surgeries have been done as well as 83 interventional procedures.
"The NHIF fully finances the programme which is delivered through local partner hospitals. The cardiac care programme is implemented by NHIF with the intent to alleviate the suffering experienced by patients during the long wait for surgery within Kenya," Said Mwangi.
The backlog which has been witnessed over the years due to a biting shortage of cardiologists and facilities in the country. Cardiac surgery needs among Kenyans currently overshoots the country's national healthcare capacity, with lengthy processing time and costly procedures outside the country.
Initially, it would cost over a million shillings to treat heart diseases but the cost has been cut to about Sh500,000 under the NHIF benefits package.
As a measure to stem these challenges in celebrating 50 years since its foundation, NHIF initiated the programme not only to have patients receive timely treatment but also utilize local specialists and build capacity of local health facilities.
The programme is being effected in collaboration with select hospitals in the country among them Kenyatta National, Coast Provincial General, Mater, The Karen, The Nairobi, Nairobi West, Tenwek Mission, Eldoret, Gertrude Children's and M.P. Shah hospitals.
Mwangi said, "Kenya's cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, as well as their supporting facilities and clinical colleagues are capable of performing quality, lower-risk open-heart surgeries – and when conducted among an appropriately identified patient population, routine local performance of these interventions over time can increase national capacity for handling more complex cases."
The conference brought together key persons in the field of cardiology alongside stakeholders engaged in the NHIF @50 cardiac care indicator project. As the programme manager, A&K Global Health contacts patients on the waiting list and by telephone to determine their health status and administrative eligibility.
Among the requirements for eligibility include an active NHIF membership. Once enrolled, the patients are distributed to participating hospitals to determine their clinical fitness for surgery. They then get scheduled for operation.
Heart disease is among the non-communicable diseases that have increasingly become a health challenge to Kenya.
Dr Patrick Amoth, the deputy director of medical services in the Ministry of Health said statistics show that 53 per cent of mortality cases in Kenya are caused by non-communicable diseases.
Speaking during the conference televised live, a cardiologist Dr Loise Mutai said that some of the heart cases that Kenyans grapple with are classified as congenital, rheumatic, and coronary and acquired.
"Before this programme Kenya had only 200 heart surgeries annually with patients waiting even more than three years for treatment, if they were lucky to make it," said Mutai.
Dr Betty Gikonyo of Karen Hospital pointed out that due to the programme, Karen Hospital has conducted 63 surgeries as compared to only 20 that it would manage in a similar period last year.
She also noted that affordability has been the greatest challenge that faces treatment of heart diseases, but which the national health insurer has stepped in to cushion.
Amoth stated that the ministry is working to initiate targeted training which will focus on areas where there are shortages like heart specialists. He said that this will also be coupled with the new benefits package for doctors in the recently signed CBA.
However, issues of medical supplies were mentioned as among the problems that hinder accessibility of treatment of heart problems in Kenya with speakers calling on the government to enact laws that will cap the markup levied by retailers.