First centre for heart rhythm abnormality treatment in E.& Central Africa launched in Mombasa

Nurses based at Aga Khan Hospital's Mombasa Cathlab demonstrate to Mombasa County Health Executive Hazel Koitaba how the equipment used for Cardiac Electrophysiology works. PHOTO: BRIAN OSWETA.

Mombasa, KENYA: Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa has become the first hospital in East and Central Africa to launch a Cardiac Electrophysiology (EP) program.

Before, patients who required the program which focuses on diagnosing and treating abnormal heart rates and rhythms (Cardiac arrhythmia) had to wait for a specialist to come to the country or travel outside the country to get treatment.

Speaking during the launch on Wednesday, the hospital’s EP Certified cardiologist Dr. Salim Mohammed said this will be the first time full-time services of the program will be available in Kenya.

“Previously the services were available in Nairobi at Aga Khan Hospital and Mater hospital and were managed by foreigners who use to organize camps. This is the first time we are having a full-time program throughout the year, some people would travel to Europe India country to get the services,” Said Dr. Salim.

Cardiac arrhythmia, also known as irregular heartbeat or cardiac dysrhythmia, is a group of conditions where the heartbeat is irregular, too slow, or too fast.

According to Dr. Salim Mohammed, the conditions develop with time and are not related to any infection.

“The condition is common in everyone. Some are born with them, some develop during adulthood and there is a type that comes often with age. so there is a wide spectrum of people from as young as 5-year olds to as old as  80-year-olds.” Said Dr. Salim.

The procedure which is an invasive surgery, is done in the Cath lab where doctors pass long wires (Catheters) through the groin to particular areas in the heart and run specialized tests to try and locate the source of abnormal heartbeats.

“Once identified, the doctors then burn the source of abnormal heartbeats (ablation)At the end, all wires are removed the patient is observed for several hours. This allows the patients to live a normal life thereafter,” added Dr. Salim.

Mombasa County Health Executive Hazel Koitaba who graced the EP launch welcomed the move by the hospital to help provide quality healthcare not only to the county but the region as well.

“The opening of the EP lab is good news to Mombasa county as this is will become the only referral facility in East and Central Africa. This is in line with one of Governor’s manifesto pillar which is to provide quality healthcare.” Said Ms. Koitaba.

She added that the county has recently employed a Cardiologist at Coast General Hospital and is looking forward to partner with the private sectors such as the Aga Khan hospital to provide quality public healthcare.

The procedure costs vary between sh.450,000 to sh.800, 000, which Dr. Salim says depends on what is used during the procedure and how long it takes.

To help the public afford the treatment, the hospital is partnering with NHIF to help support patients cater for the costs.

Four patients have already undergone the 1 1/2 hours to 4-hour procedure at Aga Khan Hospital right before it was officially launched; three from Mombasa and one from Nairobi.

During the same event, the hospital also launched the 1.5 Tesla MRI which is superior in early diagnosis of brain and spinal cord/nerve roots problems.

Doctors say the machine will come as a great boost in cancer diagnosis and staging, enabling early initiation of treatment and longer life expectancy.