The solid organ transplant programme should be completely separated from the bone marrow transplant, an international bone marrow transplant and cellular therapies expert, Dr Gaurav Kharya has advised Uganda.
There are plans to establish this tertiary health service in the country. Dr Kharya, the director bone marrow transplant and cellular therapy at the Apollo hospital in Delhi, India, said the two programmes are run using different guidelines and having them separated from the beginning will save the country the confusion that may arise in future.
“These are legal guidelines, every transplant program is governed by guidelines. The guidelines for solid transplants which are; liver, kidney, lungs – whatever are very different from the guidelines on which bone marrow transplant works. As the country Uganda is in the formal process of formulating guidelines, it is very important to segregate these two things right from the beginning so that there is no confusion between the two,” he said.
Dr Kharya who is in Uganda on the invitation of the ministry of Health to among others; assess Uganda’s readiness and train health workers on how to handle pre and post-bone marrow transplant patients, said there’s a huge and increasing number of Ugandans seeking this care in India.
He said by Uganda starting to provide the service, it will save the country money since forecasts on, for instance, sickle cell disease indicate that the disease burden in especially countries in Africa like Uganda will only start going down after 2050.
This, he says is because Uganda has not yet developed enough capacity for not just testing, treatment and cure like transplants but also awareness about the disease.
Uganda is now formulating the organ transplant law, and Dr Charles Ayume who heads the parliamentary health committee says the expert has come in at the time when they are inviting views from experts since they want to be back and debate the bill on the floor of parliament by September.
Ayume says they hope this bill can be accented to by the president by December this year such that they can then convince the budget committee to appropriate money for the initial transplants work in the next budget. For him, this will save the many flocking to India for stem cell transplants.
Currently, however, Dr Robert Opoka, a consultant paediatrician based at the Mulago hospital sickle cell clinic says they are not sure of the exact number of patients seeking bone transplants because people live and keep their experiences private.