UMTH: The Cancer Centre Under Professor Ahidjo’s Led Management Team (1), By: James Bwala


What’s different now? Numerous changes have occurred since Professor Ahmed Ahidjo assumed management of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital in northeastern Nigeria. Nobody entering the hospital could possibly miss the influence of the Ahidjo-led Management Team. As we used to say of darkness to light or backwardness to forwardness in expressing improvements in our academics in school back then, they creatively relocated the hospital from Dimma to Limma. The Cancer Center at the UMTH is one of the topics on which this article focuses.

One of the long-standing accomplishments of the Ahidjo administration in hospital administration is this. It took a lot of effort on all fronts—intellectually, practically, and physically—to try to achieve anything for the residents of Borno state, the Northeast of Nigeria, and beyond. The CMD was in a unique position to negotiate for this, and as a result, the Cancer Centre is now the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to a study on cancer in Africa, the continent’s 102 total cancer treatment facilities—including general oncology clinics, gynecologic oncology or other single-organ malignancy units, pediatric oncology clinics, and palliative care facilities—are insufficient to meet the rising needs of the continent’s cancer-affected population. The International Agency for Research on Cancer projects that during the next five years, there will be more than one million new instances of cancer in Africa per year. Along with the tremendous loss of human life, this statistic has a substantial economic cost. However, the majority of African countries have a long way to go before improving their ability to combat cancer.

When the concept to create a cancer center in the hospital was floated, this may have been one of the goals of the Ahidjo management team at the UMTH. But to destroy the big behemoth, an elephant needs more than one shot. Hence, the requirement for all hands to be on deck. In an effort to get things done, the CMD reached out to other Nigerians who could help turn this ambition into reality in a variety of ways. A member of the green chambers of the Nigerian National Assembly who represents the federal constituencies of Biu, Bayo, Kwaya Kusar, and Shani is one name that keeps popping up in conversation.

The CMD cited Hon. Muktari Betara Aliyu three times during a meeting at the UMTH Cancer Center. Additionally, Hon. Muktari Betara Aliyu was mentioned several times by Dr. Abba Ali Tijjani, a consultant clinical oncologist and head of the clinical oncology department at the University of Maiduguri. Dr. Tijjani is a beneficiary of the training provided for the proper taking of the center and was also kind enough to mention the hospital’s friends who helped the cancer center get to where it is today.

According to a survey, the survival rate for cancer patients in Africa is far lower than it is in high-income nations. Women with breast cancer, for instance, had an 82% 5-year survival rate in Europe, compared to 46% in Uganda, just under 39% in Algeria, and 12% in Gambia. Only the population growth rate may be used to compare the situation in Nigeria. In the past ten years, numerous research teams have examined the problem in an effort to pinpoint the root reasons and provide potential remedies. Although the research that has been published to date has identified many of the flaws in cancer care and articulated sound strategic concepts, no targets or deadlines have been set on a practical path to make the needed change.

By the time the center is operational, the new University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) Cancer Centre would have made a significant contribution to reducing Nigerians’ frequent use of medical tourism. The Cancer Center is the only facility in Nigeria with four bunkers and cutting-edge medical equipment to ensure that cancer patients receive top-notch care.

Recall that Alh. Mamman Mamuda, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, remarked of the UMTH during the inspection of projects completed in the Hospital that other cancer centers across the nation “are not up to the standard” of the UMTH Cancer Centre and lack the capacity. ‘From what I have observed on the ground, I can conclude that the UMTH is prepared to put an end to medical tourism in Nigeria,’ he claimed. ‘In terms of cancer management, UMTH is prepared to support cancer sufferers, much as President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision. We have already begun planning ways to make the UMTH a recipient of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Cancer Support Fund.’ he added.

Adopted in 2011, the Brazzaville Declaration on Noncommunicable Diseases Prevention and Control in the WHO African Region confirmed that African countries are aware of the growing threat posed by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer. The signatories agreed, among other things, to create prevention and control strategies, improve their health systems so they can lessen the burden of NCDs, find the funding needed to fight these illnesses, and enable their national health information systems to produce data on NCDs and their risk factors.

However, this direction is still making slow progress. Only 17 of the 46 nations that responded to a WHO survey in the African region in 2010 had operational cancer policies, strategies, or action plans. The few formal national cancer control plans (NCCP) already in existence lacked funding. According to research conducted in 2013 but not yet published (J.M. D’Angou, 2013 survey), just 11 of the 32 African nations had formal NCCPs, and in 17 more, such plans were still being developed. Only six of the 11 NCCPs that were already in place were governed by a steering committee, which would be necessary for proper operation.

The Cancer Center, which cost more than N5 billion to build, has the newest medical facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to Professor Ahmed Ahidjo, Chief Medical Director of the University of Maiduguri. He also noted that the goal of UMTH is to prevent any medical issues from being referred elsewhere, “as the Epic Hospital in the NorthEast Region.” We also have two linear accelerators and two brachy therapists here, for a total of four bunkers. We are bringing the first linear accelerators into Nigeria with the nectar infinite. The second one, HD Versa, which the Federal Ministry of Health recently completed the purchase procedure for us, is the first to enter Sub-Saharan Africa and the most recent method used globally.

Dr. Abba Ali, the Consultant Oncology at the UMTH, indicated in a brief interview that plans to manage cancer must include the severity of the health issue, the most common cancer kinds, and their distribution by location, age group, and sex. Only properly operated national population-based cancer registries can give such information, but there aren’t enough of them on the continent.

The African Cancer Registry Network claims that just 22 member registries—not all of which are national registries—contribute to the network’s database from the sub-Saharan Africa region. Only five African registries were permitted to participate in the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) periodic publication Cancer Incidence in Five Continents since many of them do not yet have the necessary levels of recorded data quality (volume IX).

The burden of cancer can only be calculated in the absence of exact numbers. Just under 850,000 new cases of cancer were reported in Africa in 2012, according to the IARC’s GLOBOCAN 2012 estimate of cancer incidence, prevalence, and mortality worldwide. The same year, nearly 600,000 fatalities were related to cancer. More than 735,000 deaths in 2020, as well as around 1,056,000 new cases (an increase of almost 24%).

The mortality/incidence ratio, which measures how well cancer care systems are working, was 72% in Africa in 2012, which is significantly higher than the ratio in high-income populations (for example, 44% in Europe). The outcomes in 2022 and 2023 are still a slight underestimation in terms of health policy issues. In order for the people of Borno state, the northeastern region, Nigeria, and indirectly the West African countries to benefit from the idea that emerged to bring healing closer to home, perhaps this explained why hospitals like the UMTH continued to knock on every door to seek the understanding of the people in this regard…. TO BE CONTINUED.

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