Relief for heart patients

Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Aldrin Musiiwa (second from left) commissions open heart surgery equipment while Sub Sahara Africa Structural Heart Manager Sihe Mlambo, cardiovascular specialist (left) explains how the machine works. Looking on are officials from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. — Picture by Memory Mangombe

Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Aldrin Musiiwa (second from left) commissions open heart surgery equipment while Sub Sahara Africa Structural Heart Manager Sihe Mlambo, cardiovascular specialist (left) explains how the machine works. Looking on are officials from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. — Picture by Memory Mangombe

Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Correspondent
Heart patients, who have been forking out thousands of dollars travelling for surgery outside the country, could soon be treated locally following revelations the procedure will be done here starting next month.

Heart surgery was stopped in 2003 due to financial constraints, but a team assembled to perform the procedure at Parirenyatwa Hospital said yesterday it was ready for the job.

Addressing health officials at the commissioning of open heart surgery equipment at Parirenyatwa, consultant, cardiothoracics and vascular surgeon team leader Dr David Chimuka said they had decided to resume operations to provide the service to ordinary Zimbabweans who could not go abroad for treatment.

Dr Chimuka appealed to the Government to scrap the tender system in the procurement of heart diseases equipment, saying the process was complex, leading to avoidable loss of lives.

“Our team should have the privilege to be provided with what we need at the right time.

“There is no way we can wait for a tender process which lasts for six weeks to be processed. If we need any equipment, it must be bought without going to tender because we lose a lot of lives in the process,” he said.

“This is because the heart is an important organ as it is the only organ which supplies blood to all body cells and every other organ is dependent on the heart. It is the only organ which can continue to beat without anybody’s support,” said Dr Chimuka.

“We now also have a lot of kids who are born with congenital heart defects which can be corrected surgically. These hearts are not well developed as they have holes in them. They have arteries which do not communicate to one another. This programme is simple in that it corrects those leaks and closes those holes,” he said.

The heart project will see 150 open heart surgeries being performed this year against a total of 400 patients who are on the waiting list.

The project will save huge sums in foreign currency as cardiothoracics patients will no longer need to travel to South Africa, India and Western countries for operations.

Parirenyatwa Hospital managed to perform 460 open heart surgeries between 1995 and 2003 before the department was closed.

The heart lung machine and accessories, all worth $300 000, were sourced from Medtronic in South Africa.

The equipment consists of a heart lung machine, a heart cooler machine, an ACT machine and an autolog cell saver and during the first five years Medtronic South Africa will be doing all the maintenance work.

Officially commissioning the equipment, Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Mr Aldrin Musiiwa said the idea was meant to transfer medical technologies and knowledge to Zimbabwe, instead of patients going for expensive surgeries outside the country.

“In line with Zim-Asset, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals has acquired a heart lung machine as this is vital for open heart surgery,” he said. “The well to do patients and those who were fortunate enough to have strong medical cover resorted to going to South Africa and India, draining scare foreign currency.

“Quite a number of Zimbabweans could only hope for divine interventions since they were financially incapacitated and there was also a brain drain of skilled manpower.”

Deputy Minister Musiiwa appealed to the corporate sector and individuals willing to meet additional preparatory costs for the programme to come forward.

Medtronic Sub-Saharan Africa country director, Mr William Stranix, said the partnership with Parirenyatwa Hospital would involve extensive and ongoing healthcare professional training.

Doctors and surgeons will be sent to South Africa to acquire the skills necessary to manage patients in a heart theatre and the Intensive Care Unit.

“It is Medtronic’s mission to contribute to human welfare by the application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health and extend life,” said Mr Stranix.

“We will run wet lab and simulation workshops for per-fusionists and surgeons and implement proctorship programmes where we will fund international surgeons to train local surgical teams on highly complex cases,” he said.

“This would account for nothing if we were not able to provide the necessary medical devices at a cost that is affordable to Zimbabweans. To this end, we have designed an all procedural kit that we believe will allow patients to access sustainable high quality cardiac surgery.”

The commissioning of the equipment was also attended by representatives from Harare Central Hospital, Chitungwiza Central Hospital and medical aid societies.

The resumption of heart surgery has come at a time Chitungwiza Central Hosptal has announced it will resume kidney transplants this year after the first project was abandoned in 1992.

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