Zim targets 150 heart surgeries

HARARE - Zimbabwe is targeting to conduct at least 150 heart surgeries per year following the recent resumption of cardiac surgery that has been absent in the country since 2003. 

In January this year, Irish firm Medtronic Africa supplied critical equipment needed in cardiac surgery, as well as providing training and sourcing of expertise to assist in complex surgeries at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

In turn, this partnership is expected to bring relief to 400 people on the waiting list for life-saving heart operations.

Open heart surgeries, which commenced locally in 1995, were stopped in 2003 due to the country’s economic meltdown, forcing patients to travel abroad for the critical procedure. The privileged, who could afford it, would travel abroad for treatment, but the vast majority of patients were could not afford it.

“We lost at least half of the people who needed surgery during that time — all unnecessary deaths,” said cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon at Parirenyatwa, David Chimuka.

Chimuka’s distress at the untenable situation led him to begin a search for a long-term loan of capital equipment.

“When I met with Medtronic, they realised that more than just equipment, we needed a long-term solution that would be sustainable into the future. It was a complex challenge, but within 24 hours, they came back with their proposal,” he said.

Medtronic Africa’s proposal involved the supply of the equipment on a long-term loan basis, totalling five years, during which the company will service the equipment and transfer skills.

The equipment includes a heart-lung machine, which temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery, heater/cooler device for temperature control, an activated clotting time (ACT) device to prevent blood clots, and an autoLog Autotransfusion (cell saver) System, which enables patients to receive transfusions with their own blood during surgical procedures.

Medtronic Sub-Saharan Africa country director William Stranix said his company believes that no one can solve the world’s healthcare challenges alone.

“We work on collaborating to create strong partnerships like Parirenyatwa Hospital to ensure that we can provide quality healthcare to more people. We hope that this partnership can be mirrored in other organisations in southern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa to provide sustainable access to the underserved and improve patient outcomes,” he said.

Ten children born with congenital heart disease will be the first to receive surgery to repair ventricular septal defects — a hole in the inner wall of the heart.

As in the rest of the world, one in 100 children are born with congenital heart disease in Zimbabwe, and cardiovascular disease has the second highest non-communicable disease mortality rate after cancer, with rheumatic heart disease, also treatable with surgery, topping the list of cardiac illnesses.

The first paediatric operation was successfully performed, and it is hoped that 150 surgeries on children and adults will be performed annually.

“We estimate that our cost of procedures will have come down significantly which is a dramatic saving for Zimbabweans,” Chimuka said, adding that the Zimbabwe Heart Foundation is being formed which will help to raise funds for indigent patients.

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