Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals has lined up 17 children with heart deformities to undergo free corrective surgeries this week, following resuscitation of open heart surgeries which had been stopped in 2003.
The operations, which begin today, are being conducted by a group of 10 South Korean health experts from Konkuk University of Seoul in conjunction with Zimbabwean doctors.
Speaking during a luncheon held for the visiting surgeons in Harare yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa described the development as a new beginning for the country that will not only benefit locals, but the whole region.
“It is a new beginning for Zimbabwe,” he said. “It is something that Zimbabwe has always desired to do so that a lot of our children who are sent to India, who are sent to China, who are sent outside the country are managed here.”
Dr Parirenyatwa said if Zimbabwe managed to establish a centre for open heart surgery at Parirenyatwa, children born with heart defects will be able to get an opportunity to have them corrected locally.
“It will also mean that the region will be attracted to coming here as it will be a form of medical tourism, which is a positive development for us,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said while Government was striving to develop rural health care centres, referral centres should not be forgotten.
Dr Parirenyatwa said as the country’s health system begins to pick up in relation to both infrastructure and human resources, it also needed support from everyone.
“What this means is that our system is picking up nicely and as you know we have the experts here in Zimbabwe, what we just need is the skill. So, these Koreans will help us prop up the skills that are here and we hope it will also attract Zimbabweans in the Diaspora,” he said.
Dr Parirenyatwa said he was certain that the scheduled heart operations will all be successful. Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr David Chimuka, who facilitated resuscitation of the open heart surgeries in Zimbabwe, said up to 150 people will undergo surgery this year from a waiting list that includes over 400 children and adults.
He said an additional 50 adults were expected to undergo the same operation before the end of this year.
The last heart surgery in Zimbabwe took place in 2003 before the health care system was affected by economic problems due to sanctions imposed by Western countries which were not happy with the land reform programme.
“We were hoping to start our first case this afternoon (yesterday), but I am hearing that one of the boxes with their (South Koreans) equipment is being held by customs,” said Dr Chimuka.
He said the 17 scheduled operations were drawn from all provinces, with the first case being from Matabeleland. South Korean ambassador Mr Yong-kyu Kwon hailed the partnership between his country and Zimbabwe, saying it will further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries.