GPHC to undertake Paediatric Heart Surgery by September
– Dr Gary Stephens
– Kids First Fund list of children to be examined
By Sharmain Cornette
The Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI) which is situated in the Georgetown Public Hospital compound is expected to yet again make history by the month of September when it introduces open heart surgery for children, an undertaking which has never been engaged locally.
This disclosure was made by Head of CHI, Dr Gary Stephens, during an interview with this newspaper recently. According to the Cardiac Surgeon, he has had discussions with a United States-based Paediatric Surgeon who is very proficient in his field, having done many successful paediatric surgeries over the years.
“We were in discussions just last week and we are putting together a list because he is planning to come down here. The kind of kids surgeries that we were not able to do here before he is going to do…We are hoping that it is going to be in the month of August or probably September when we are able to conduct the first batch of paediatric open heart surgeries. ”
And since the CHI has not been involved much in paediatric operations, Dr Stephens disclosed that earnest efforts will now be made to make contact with individuals and organisations who can channel children in need of heart surgery to the institute.
“We are trying to reach out to people and find out if they know of kids out there who may need open heart surgery. They can call the CHI and register with us.”
Once the registration process has been completed, Dr Stephens said out that the children’s particulars will be sent abroad so that they could be examined by the Paediatric Surgeon.
According to Dr Stephens the Paediatric Surgeon is expected to travel to Guyana with his own team of medical professionals, including nurses and anaesthesiologist all drawn from the Long Island Jewish Hospital in New York.
“They are coming as a team and all they need is the infrastructure to be able to work. When these folks come down here we would like them to do as much as 10 cases because they said that they will come for a week and do about 10 cases. Right now there may be about 20 children who need open heart surgery and some are more urgent than others…We would like to get our hands on those.”
According to Dr Stephens the CHI will also be examining the former First Lady’s Kids First Fund list of children who require open heart surgeries.
“We had that list at some point so we are trying to back track and figure out what happened with some of those kids, whether they had surgery or not.”
As such he noted that the assistance of the public will become necessary to spread the word that open heart surgery is available to suitable candidates.
During the latter part of last year, Dr Stephens had divulged that plans were apace to have paediatric heart surgery done at CHI by the middle of this year.
According to him this additional and crucial feature has been in the making for the past two years. He pointed out then, too, that efforts must first be made to ensure that persons are totally comfortable with the current procedures before attempts are made to operate on children, a state Dr Stephens believes the Institute has reached.
Last year he had divulged, “We anticipate and I am pretty sure that by the middle of next year all of our diagnostic capabilities in terms of paediatric cardiology should be available to us. We will have intervention paediatric cardiac surgery, and given how many children we have we could probably run the programme similar to the one for adults.”
Currently the Institute has a doctor in training overseas who will also help to facilitate the paediatric cardiology programme. “Our doctor should be coming home in a matter of months so we expect to have a full time paediatric cardiologist on hand.”
According to Dr Stephens, CHI is fully equipped with the relevant equipment to facilitate open heart surgeries for children but however currently lack the relevant personnel to completely man the operation.
“The surgery itself I don’t think is the issue, it is the management. Kids are unique…with adults you can take a little bit more latitude but with kids you can’t do that. Now if you are going to do these complex operations it is good to work as a team, with people who know each other.”
For this reason, Dr Stephens said that it would be the safest move to allow the paediatric surgeon to operate with his own team for the time being.
CHI is expected to stand the travel expense and accommodation of the anticipated medical team but according to Dr Stephens there is the likelihood that Government will assist the venture once a timely request is made.