Over 500 Children Need Heart Surgery

Over 500 Children Need Heart Surgery

Over 500 children suffering from heart conditions are currently in need of different medical procedures. According to Dr. Michael Oketcho, a consultant cardiovascular surgeon, majority of patients require open heart surgery, while a few need closed heart surgeries. Oketcho yesterday said annually they receive about 300 patients who require operations, but because of the limited resources, space and human resource, they can only carry out 100 surgeries. He added that in the process, many of the patients have died before receiving the necessary treatment. Recent statistics show that over 150,000 children in Uganda suffer from rheumatic heart disease and if they are not treated, most of them will die in their second or third decade of life.
Funding
Oketcho made the revelations yesterday at the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) where a grant was announced to enhance the capacity of the pediatric cardiac program. The Director of UHI, Dr. John Omagino, said operating a child abroad could cost $20,000, yet if a child is treated in Uganda, the total cost is estimated at $5,000. The grant has been mobilized by Gift of Life International, Rotary Club of Uganda and other not-for-profit organizations. Gift of Life is a Rotarian-based non-profit charity program that was started in 1975 when Rotarians in Uganda and the US sponsored a five-year-old girl’s surgery in New York. Under the program, a grant to a tune of $272,500 has been put aside for surgeries of up to 110 children with heart problems. A group of cardiologists has since been assembled to carry out surgeries at the UHI. Under this grant, 30 children will undergo open heart surgery, 20 closed heart surgery and 50 interventional cardiac catheterization procedures will be conducted in about six months. The program is in honor of the late Rotarian, Sam Owori, the president-elect of Rotary International, who died shortly before taking office in 2017. Appealing for more equipment, Omagino said they have only four operating beds, yet they need a minimum of 18.
Statistics
Dr. Peter Lwabi, a consultant in cardiology, said at least 15,000 babies are born each year and of these 7,500-8,000 need some form of intervention. He, however, emphasized that some heart conditions are treatable. Dr. Twalib Aliku, a consultant pediatric cardiologist, said 80% of patients at UHI who present with rheumatic heart disease need surgery. Experts say some children are born with heart conditions while others just get them after birth, such as congenital heart defects, which are caused by abnormal formation of the heart during fetal development.
Other Benefits
James Serugo from the Rotary Club of Kampala said the other benefits of implementing the grant include improved patient care, strengthening the UHI research agenda, training of UHI medical team and saving money due to reduced referral of patients abroad. “Last year, this grant funded a surgical mission in which UHI doctors worked with a vocational training team from Washington National Children’s Hospital to operate 10 children suffering from rheumatic heart disease at Mulago Hospital.” Serugo said.
Article published in Uganda New Vision National News, January 29, 2019