Dec 05, 2015 News
—as third round of paediatric surgeries concludes
“It has already been done,” said Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, when asked if he would be advocating for specific funding to be allocated to the Paediatric Heart Surgery programme being undertaken
at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
The programme is one that is being done in collaboration with the International Children’s Heart Foundation also known as the Baby Heart Foundation based in Memphis, Tennessee, which has Dr Rodrigo Soto as its Chief Executive Officer. Dr Soto is also a renowned Paediatric Heart Surgeon who has on three occasions headed a Baby Heart Foundation medical team to these shores to conduct paediatric open heart surgeries and other cardiac related procedures.
A press conference yesterday marked the end of a two week stay during which 17 surgical operations were conducted. Earlier this year 26 cases were done – 14 during one trip and 12 on another.
The collaboration with Baby Heart means, Guyana is able to reduce the cost of having to send children with various heart defects for treatment overseas. But the support is not limited to this as the Baby Heart Foundation has also been helping to build capacity at the GPHC in terms of training staff and providing millions of dollars in disposables and equipment including a heart lung machine.
Minister Norton moreover confessed yesterday that “Baby Heart is no doubt a success story; it’s a win, win situation for all. What is important to note is the (age) range of patients…we are talking 20 months to 17 years.”
“We are worried when we look at our data as it reflects our infantile mortality rate. One might have never thought how many of those babies that have died really and truly might have been able to live if they had immediate surgery, especially since we know how important cardiac surgery is to the life of persons.”
But the collaboration with the Baby Heart Foundation has already started to reverse a troubling trend as, according to the Minister, the support is being realised on a national scale. He, therefore, added that “congratulations are in order for all of the efforts that have been made.”
There were however some constraints earlier this year regarding the collaboration between Guyana and the Baby Heart Foundation. But Minister Norton yesterday declared that this is a thing of the past. He nevertheless noted, that “Let’s not run away from the fact, we are dealing with some very expensive procedures and Guyana being the country it is, will always be limited in terms of expenditure; but that happens to be something of the past.”
He, in making reference to future collaboration with the Foundation added that “I would have loved to say after a period of time there will be no babies with heart problems in Guyana, and only if that was possible only then could we safely say that there will be no future for Baby Heart’s support in Guyana.”
Although the Minister noted that with the training of local personnel to conduct paediatric heart surgery making Guyana independent in this regard, he pointed out that Guyana will continue to welcome the support of Baby Heart Foundation. In fact he anticipates that for the foreseen future Government will be able to accommodate the Baby Heart Foundation visits to Guyana possibly on more than three occasions per year.
“That’s the direction we are looking at,” said Minister Norton, a disclosure that prompted resounding applause from the mainly Baby Heart team and GPHC officials gathered at the press conference.
At yesterday’s press conference too, Head of Paediatric Surgery, Dr Marisa Seepersaud, and Director of Medical and Professional Services, Dr Sheik Amir, both lauded the support from Dr Soto and his Baby Heart Foundation team.
The forum was also graced by Dr Debra Isaacs, a Cardiology specialise at the LIBIN Cardiovascular Institute in Alberta, Canada, who has also been offering immense support to Guyana in the area of paediatric care.
She shared her conviction yesterday that with every surgery that is done through the on-going overseas support “GPHC is making money. I have calculated it out…when I look at the amount of money, US$3,000 per child and when you subtract all of the equipment that has been brought in; I think that GPHC is in a net balance positive.”
Dr Isaac is also optimistic that similar support can soon be introduced in the care of adults.
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