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Dec 02, 2008 News
The operations of the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI) have evolved to such an extent over the years that Head of the Unit, Dr Gary Stephens, is of the belief that the entity has the capability to even save the life of a heart attack victim.
The institute, which came into being a few years ago, is controlled by the New York-based Guyanese Dr Stephens, who initiated the implementation of the Institute based on his desire to give back to his country of birth.
Since its 2004 commission, the Institute has since expanded its services to the Guyanese public.
According to the doctor, during a recent interview with this newspaper, once an individual who suffers a heart attack is able to reach CHI, which is situated in the Georgetown Public Hospital Compound, within the standard 90-minute timeframe, chances are that that individual’s life could be saved.
“It is possible that we will be able to save pretty much anybody’s life,” Dr Stephens speculated with much optimism.
He expounded that it is anticipated that, within the next few weeks, the Institute will be able to aptly address cases of acute heart attack, which is common in the majority of Third World countries.
This problem (heart attack), the doctor disclosed, could be remedied immediately with the insertion of a stent. He noted that CHI has the ability and the latest stent currently available.
“Even if a patient may need surgery at some point, at least we can temporise the problem, because we now have what it takes to do that,” he assured.
Dr Stephens said that since stenting has become so good, cardiac surgery, as a result, is rarely emergent. He noted, though, that there are still some patients who, because of the nature of their diseases, cannot have a stenting procedure done, and require surgery instead.
And according to Dr Stephens, thanks must be rendered to the local Government for the realisation of this feature at the Institute.
Heart care, the doctor noted, has to do mainly with cardiology, cardiac surgery, as well as diagnosis; and according to him, almost everything required in this regard is available every day at CHI.
He further disclosed that one of the biggest improvements for the Institute is the rate at which angiograms, one of the first operations undertaken at the Institute, are conducted.
“Before, we had to bring doctors in from Barbados, but we can do it right here any day of the week… and pretty much whenever we want. When we started, patients had to wait for this operation for about six weeks. Now they don’t have to wait at all.”
Another part of cardiology is the level of Intervention Cardiology which, according to Dr Stephens, has been greatly improved by Government’s decision to bring in an Interventional Cardiologist with the help of the Chinese Government, who now works closely with CHI. For this year, the CHI has been able to conduct about 10 successful heart operations.
But, according to Dr Stephens, he is still surprised by the fact that many Guyanese are still seeking cardiac services outside of Guyana, although it is readily available here at a fraction of the cost they would pay overseas, considering airfare and accommodation costs.
According to Dr Stephens, normally, from a cardiac surgery standpoint, patients would usually see their cardiac surgeons once, and then they usually return to the care of their primary care physicians.
However, with his regular visits here, he is able to observe his cases subsequently. He noted that, so far, there has not been a single problematic case.
And while he is still dependent on the skills of foreign doctors to assist his operations at the Institute, Dr Stephens articulated, efforts are still being made to have primarily local professionals assist him.
“Our aim is to be able to do it with local talent. We are not there yet, but we are closer to that goal than we were years ago.”
Dr Stephens and a team of doctors arrived in Guyana on Friday last, and were able to complete operations, including valve replacements, heart by-passes and the insertion of a pacemaker.
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