Gloria Ashuntantang, Associate Professor of Nephrology, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaounde 1, talks on government's efforts to handle the increasing number of patients on dialysis. She had this thought provoking conversation with Cameroon Tribune
Cameroon Tribune: What explains the fact that the number of patients on dialysis in Cameroon has doubled in two years?
Gloria Ashutantang: In December 2012, we had about 390 patients on dialysis. By December 2013, the number had risen to 920 patients. Two things are responsible for this. The most important is the creation in December 2007 by President Paul Biya of dialysis centres in each region. Today, we have nine government centres already, with the Adamawa and West Regions still to have their own dialysis centres. So it makes access easier. Also, dialysis is subsidised in Cameroon. Dialysis costs about 100,000 FCFA per session and these patients do it two or three times a week. But the government pays most of the cost and patients only spend 5,000 FCFA.
Access to dialysis has increased and we might only say that many people who had kidney failure were dying because they could not afford the 75,000 FCFA per patient at the time. Secondly, the number of people with kidney problems is increasing all over the world. This is due to diabetes, the increase in the use of un-prescribed drugs, which people call ‘natural drugs’, food supplements, etc. Also, HIV is an important cause of kidney disease, but the good news is that with antiretroviral treatment, cases of kidney failure from HIV are decreasing.
Cameroon Tribune:How are dialysis centres in the country coping with the sudden increase in the number of patients?
Gloria Ashutantang:These centres, even though they are situated in hospitals, have separate budgets. The budget for dialysis increases each year to cope with the growing number of patients. Patients from time to time go on strike because of shortage of dialysis material, which are not available locally. Sometimes, it is the result of delays in imports. However, Cameroon is one of the few countries to subsidise dialysis.
In neighbouring Nigeria and other countries, dialysis is all paid for by patients such that most patients don’t spend up to three months on treatment. But in Cameroon, we have patients who have been on dialysis for 10, 15 and even 20 years. The cost is high no doubt, but we must appreciate government’s efforts in reducing it. What is left for us is to cope with the increasing number of patients.
Cameroon Tribune How long can a patient on dialysis live?
Gloria Ashutantang:The truth is that people on dialysis have a higher chance of dying than those who are not. The longest survivor in the world was on dialysis for 45 years. In Cameroon, the longest survivor was on it for 21 years. So, patients can live as long as possible, depending on several factors. The kidney has many functions. The main one is the elimination of waste, but it also partakes in the production of blood, Vitamin D, calcium, etc. Dialysis corrects only the elimination of waste. So, patients have to take medications separately to avoid anaemia and Vitamin D deficiency.
Government only subsidises dialysis and not the other treatments. As a result, many dialysis patients have anaemia because the medication per week costs FCFA 15,000. They die of anaemia and complications linked to kidney disease and not dialysis per se. Many people in Cameroon say dialysis kills. This is not true. If you are on dialysis because you have HIV, you can die of it. If you have chronic kidney problems because of diabetes, you can die of diabetes. Those on dialysis who can’t afford medicine for anaemia you can die of it. So, dialysis per se doesn’t kill.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the end of Ebola in Guinea where more than 2,500 people have died from the virus over the past two years. On Tuesday, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, in a statement commended the Guinean people and government for showing "extraordinary leadership in fighting the epidemic." "I commend the governments, communities and partners for their determination in confronting this epidemic," media outlets quoted Moeti as saying, adding, "As we work towards building resilient health care systems, we need to stay vigilant to ensure that we rapidly stop any new flares that may come up in 2016." The health organization also noted that the West African country would enter a 90-day period of heightened surveillance.
Meanwhile, people in the capital, Conakry, have greeted the announcement with mixed emotions given the damage the virus did to the country's health, education sectors and economy. Fanta Oulen Camara, who works for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), told Reuters that several of his relatives were infected and lost their lives. "Several of my family are dead. This situation has shown us how much we must fight for those who are survivors," Camara said, adding, "After I got better, the hardest thing was to make people welcome me. Most people that normally supported me abandoned me.
Even the school where I was an instructor dropped me. It was very hard." Rene Migliani, an official at the national coordination center for the fight against Ebola, has said that the epidemic has orphaned nearly 6,200 children across the African nation. In December 2013, the world's worst outbreak of the disease began in Guinea before spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone and seven other countries.
Cameroon’s pioneer Mental Health Day began holding in Yaounde on December 15, 2015, with stakeholders crying out against the neglect of their profession. Speaking at the start of the three-day event holding at Merina Hotel in the capital city’s Central Business District, Alim Hayatou, the Secretary of State in charge of Epidemics and Pandemics in the Ministry of Public Health, promised to restructure and give the profession more fillip. He admitted that mental health practice has for long “been an orphan of the health care system.” He added that a situation whereby Cameroon’s two largest cities – Yaounde and Douala – have only three or four mental health doctors each was unacceptable.
Alim Hayatou blamed society for often associating mental health with mental illness, saying this was not true. He attributed the growing number of patients with mental challenges to the tendency by families to quickly abandon their relatives after failing to offer them care. Earlier, Dr Félicien Ntone, a psychiatrist, Sub-Director of Mental Health in the Ministry of Public Health and Deputy General Manager of the Yaounde University Teaching Hospital, presented a lamentable picture of mental health practice in Cameroon. He appealed to all departments in the Ministry of Public Health to henceforth include mental health components in their activities. According to him, the absence of a proper mental health policy cannot guarantee an effective health care system.
Dr Félicien Ntone decried the neglect of the mental health profession over the years in terms of training, organisation, funding and integration into the public health system, reminding the audience that Cameroon was now at war. The resultant violence (suicide bombings) and prolonged economic crisis only worsen an already bad situation as the response has been weak, he said. “Without good mental health, Cameroon can’t develop nor hope to become an emergent nation by 2035,” Dr Ntone warned. He vowed to continue his advocacy until mental health is given its rightful place in Cameroon’s health care system. With the theme, “The Problem Of Mental Health In Cameroon: Situation And Prospects,” the opening of three days of discussions was also attended by children with mental challenges. At the end, participants are expected to chart the way for mental health practice in Cameroon.
Liberia released its last two known Ebola cases from the hospital Thursday as it starts a new countdown to declaring itself free of the virus for a third time, health officials said.
Liberia had been the only country in West Africa with known cases. Neighbor Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free in November, while Guinea's last known case recovered two weeks ago.
"There are no cases in the ETUs [Ebola Treatment Units] in the entire Republic of Liberia," said Tolbert Nyenswah, head of Liberia's Ebola response, adding that Ebola safety procedures remained in place.
The two patients released from the Paynesville ETU are the father and younger brother of the presumed index case, a 15-year-old boy named Nathan Gbotoe from a suburb of the capital Monrovia who died from the disease last week.
However, new cases could emerge in Liberia since there are 165 contacts still under quarantine, of whom more than 30 are deemed high risk, health officials told Reuters.
The contacts under surveillance have completed 14 days of their obligatory 21-day monitoring — a period that corresponds with the typical incubation period of the virus, Nyenswah said.
"No need to cancel your plane ticket when you are planning to come to Liberia. Continue to come here; the place is safe," Nyenswah told reporters.
Liberian medical workers are still grappling to explain how Ebola re-emerged in Liberia more than two months after it was declared free of the virus by the World Health Organization.
Resurgent cases in Liberia, possibly transmitted sexually by survivors, has cast doubt on the current policy of labelling a country Ebola-free after 42 days
Medical personnel from the ten regions of Cameroon are meeting in Yaounde to device a national strategy to ensure the availability of essential medicines. The Secretary of State at the Ministry of Public Health, Alim Hayatou presided at the opening of the two-day workshop. The working session is to device ways of improving on collaboration between the National Centre for the Supply of Essential Medicines (CENAME), the Regional Funds for Health Promotion (FRPS) and public health centres, the main actors in the supply of essential medicines.
CENAME is charged with supplying drugs at the national level to the FRPS who in turn supply them at the regional level to public hospitals and health centres. To overcome obstacles like the shortage in supply relative to demand, the Ministry of Public Health has brought together these actors. Recommendations made at the end of the session will serve in specifying the role of each actor towards a better supply of essential medicines in the country.
FOUR time African Footballer of the Year winner and former Cameroonian national team captain Samuel Eto’o to visit Zimbabwe next week.
The Cameroonian striker won the African Footballer of the year award three times in row in 2003/4/5 and in 2010.
However, his visit has nothing to do with football.
The African giant will be visiting Zimbabwe to speak to young people about HIV and STIs in the hope that his popularity will help spread the message on the dangers of the two diseases which are mainly sexually transmitted.
Eto’o will be a guest at this year’s International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA) running from the 29th of November to 4th December.
Confirming the coming of decorated striker, local Zimbabwe ICASA Communications manager, Tariro Makanga, said Eto’o is expected in the country next week and will address thousands of delegates on the 30th of November.
“Eto’o is a favourite of many soccer fans and non-soccer fans. He is passionate about young people.
“As such, we believe if he interacts with young people as they put their voices on HIV and STI issues in Africa it will be beneficial to them as they can in the process learn how he has made it this far,” said Makanga.
“He will be at the Community Village where even those who are not registered can have access to him.
“The Cameroonian football legend is basically a role model to many young Africans and his career tells an integrity story on its own.”
Eto’o played for Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid; English Premier League’s Chelsea, and Inter-Milan in Italy, among some top clubs.
At one point he became the highest paid player in the world when he was playing for FC Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia.