In a groundbreaking achievement, a team of healthcare professionals at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) has conducted kidney transplants on two patients, marking the first such operation performed by a local team in Ghana.
The surgeries took place on July 4th and 5th of this year, led by a team of specialist doctors, nurses, and anesthetists. Both patients, males, are currently in recovery at the facility, while their female donors have been discharged and are also doing well.
To bolster the team’s confidence, two foreign experts—a theatre technician and a transplant surgeon—were present during the procedures.
Each surgery is estimated to cost $21,000, and the First Sky Group, an indigenous private company, generously sponsored these surgeries. The First Sky Group will also be sponsoring three additional surgeries at the hospital next month.
This breakthrough is expected to provide significant relief to patients who previously had to seek such surgeries in countries like India or South Africa, where costs exceed $250,000.
During a media briefing held to announce the successful kidney transplants, Professor Mathew Kyei, a urologist, explained that after assessing the hospital’s capacity, they determined that they could perform three surgeries per month. Therefore, although six individuals had been prepared for surgery, only three will be performed next month.
Currently, approximately 1,000 people across various hospitals in Ghana are undergoing dialysis. At KBTH, the First Sky Group sponsors 250 patients to receive dialysis three times per week.
Professor James Edward Mensah, the Head of the Department of Surgery at KBTH, provided an update on the two patients, stating that their bodies had responded well to the transplants.
The first patient started producing urine within 24 hours of the surgery, indicating a positive response to the new kidney. To ensure legal compliance in kidney transplantation, an ethical committee consisting of surgeons, lawyers, and other professionals has been established.
The Executive Chairman of the First Sky Group, Eric Seddy Kutortse, revealed that his company has been supporting dialysis patients at KBTH since 2016, with a total expenditure of GH¢30 million.
Furthermore, the group previously sponsored three patients and their donors to undergo kidney transplants in India, each costing $250,000. Mr. Kutortse expressed the group’s intention to reduce costs and enable more people to benefit from kidney transplants by supporting local operations.
The First Sky Group will continue to provide free dialysis to beneficiaries at KBTH and offer free kidney transplants to eligible patients according to KBTH criteria.
Additionally, the group, in collaboration with KBTH, is working on establishing an ultramodern kidney transplant center, which will be fully funded by the company.
Highlighting the advantages of renal transplant, Professor Vincent Boima, the Head of Nephrology at KBTH, emphasized that Ghana faces a significant burden of kidney diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.
The disease primarily affects individuals between the ages of 20 and 50, and although it is preventable, not enough has been done to address it.
Prof. Boima explained that kidney failure is a silent disease often caused by lifestyle and environmental factors. Many patients remain unaware of their condition until they reach the late stages of the disease, necessitating dialysis three times a week.
Prof. Boima stressed that transplantation is a cost-effective solution that allows patients to return to their normal lives. However, due to the unavailability of the procedure in Ghana, patients have to bear the increased expenses of traveling abroad with their donors. The ultimate goal of KBTH is to ensure that no patient needs to leave the country for kidney or any other transplant.
Dr. Opoku Ware Ampomah, the CEO of KBTH, spoke about the future of transplantation at the hospital. He acknowledged the presence of highly qualified human resources but mentioned that resource constraints have led many professionals to seek opportunities abroad.
Dr. Ampomah emphasized the importance of establishing a legal framework for organ donation and harvesting in Ghana to support transplantation services.
Currently, while KBTH is capable of performing cornea transplantation, it has to import corneas. Dr. Ampomah believes that legislation would resolve this issue.
Dr. Ampomah expressed gratitude to the First Sky Group for its support to KBTH in helping kidney patients, noting that only a few patients can afford the surgery.