Rwanda enhances neurological care with new unit at King Faisal Hospital

By Esther Muhozi
On 29 April 2024 at 01:55

King Faisal Hospital (KFH) in Rwanda has unveiled a new unit dedicated to the treatment of neurological diseases, marking the country’s second such facility, complementing the existing one at Caraes Ndera Hospital.

Officially launched on April 25, 2024, with support from Belgium through the Ghent University Hospital, this department has introduced four new machines to enhance the diagnosis of neurological and brain conditions.

This initiative will allow Rwandans to access services locally that they previously had to seek abroad. Although a similar facility existed, it lacked advanced equipment like those now available at KFH.

The department is set to reduce the long waiting times for patients needing neurological care. For instance, Caraes Ndera Hospital has already scheduled some patients to return in September 2024.

Dr. Arlene Ndayisenga, the head of this department and a specialist in neurology, explained that this department was established in November 2022 after ten months of offering limited services due to the availability of only one diagnostic room.

Dr. Ndayisenga highlighted the collaboration with Ghent University Hospital over the past year to develop a state-of-the-art neurological, vascular, and brain disease department. This includes new services such as neurophysiological testing, which helps doctors assess brain function and determine necessary treatments.

The department conducts various tests including Electromyography (EMG) and Electroencephalography (EEG), which evaluate muscle activity and brain wave patterns, respectively. These tests are essential for diagnosing conditions like epilepsy, brain tumors, sleep disorders, and brain injuries.

Also available are Nerve Conduction Studies that examine nerve function outside the brain and spinal cord.

Dr. Ndayisenga noted that previously, such services were only available at Caraes Ndera Hospital, leading to lengthy wait times for patients. The new facilities at KFH are expected to reduce these delays and improve early diagnosis of brain-related diseases.

Given that many neurological and brain diseases are still not well understood in Africa, ongoing research is crucial. For example, epilepsy affects four in every hundred people, yet its causes remain under-studied.

Dr. Menelas Nkeshimana, the Head of Department of Health Workforce Development in the Ministry of Health, mentioned efforts to increase the number of local specialists. Currently, Rwanda has six Rwandan specialists and one foreign expert, with plans to expand to seventeen by 2028.

Dr. Nkeshimana emphasized the importance of training more specialists and spreading these services across the country, in line with the new department’s launch at KFH. This initiative will also boost research efforts, especially into conditions like neurocysticercosis, which was previously thought to be a major cause of epilepsy.

The training for specialists in this field requires over five years beyond a secondary degree, plus an additional two years for a Ph.D.

The Waiting Room
The ceremony to inaugurate the KFH branch specializing in neurological and neurosurgical disorders was attended by leaders from various sectors related to health.
Officials attending the launch of the new unit were shown how a patient will be assisted.
This device emits radiation that is directed at a patient's face, allowing the doctor to identify issues related to nerve and brain damage.
These machines are used to monitor the brain while the patient is asleep.
The machines that have been introduced in the department of neurology and neurosurgery at KFH are among the most advanced.
This is one of the rooms equipped with machines used for examining the brain and nerves.
The Head of the Department of Neurology at the Ghent University Hospital in Belgium, Prof. Paul Boon, together with Dr. Arlene Ndayisenga.
Dr. Menelas Nkeshimana, the Head of Department of Health Workforce Development in the Ministry of Health, mentioned efforts to increase the number of local specialists.
Paul Boon, the Director of Neuroscience at Ghent University in Belgium, highlighted the key areas that need attention for this medical field to continue progressing.