Cardiovascular specialists in the country have called for the establishment of a one-stop centre for heart patients if the impact of the ailments is to be checked.
The call was made on Saturday during a lecture by Sir Magdi Habib Yacoub, the leader of Team Heart, a group of 35 visiting doctors and nurses of cardiac surgery from Boston, which was here last week on a medical tour.
Dr Joseph Mucumbutsi, a senior consultant of paediatric cardiologist at King Faisal Hospital, Rwanda, said although there are facilities to carry out screening of heart patients, there was still a shortage of surgical equipment.
“We cannot depend on specialist volunteers who only visit like four times a year, establishing such a centre here would come in handy,” said Dr Mucumbitsi.
“Currently, we have more than 50 children under five years at King Faisal, and 225 at Chuk (Central University Teaching Hospital of Kigali) who require surgery but there are no facilities.”
The paediatric cardiologist added that though there is need for at least a cardiologist for each district hospital, there are currently only five countrywide.
He said establishing the centre would give opportunity to groom home-bread specialists.
Dr Mucumbitsi said the nearest country that offers this kind of service is Kenya, but very expensively since the charges range from $20,000 (about Rwf13.5 million) and $30,000 (about Rwf20 million). The cheapest is India at $10,000 but that is too far; that’s why we need a local facility.”
The paediatric cardiologist added if the centre is established it would help serve neighbouring countries such as Burundi, northern Tanzania, eastern Congo and southern Uganda.
“Establishing such a centre here would require a minimum of about $10 million dollars, so this is why we need a lot of funding partners.”
He added that if the centre is established it would offer the same service at $10,000 (about Rwf6.8 million) per patient for the start, and this could reduce to about $5,000 (about Rwf3.4 million) over time when the turn up for patients increases.
“It is estimated that more than 30 million people in the region need this kind of surgery, so its establishment would serve them at a lower cost.”
“What we want is a one stop centre where diagnosis and surgeries are carried out every day, this is the only way we can save lives of people with such ailments,” Dr Mucumbitsi added.
Call for special fund
The doctor also said the local health insurance system (Mutuelle de Sante) does not cater for cardiac surgery and suggested that there should be a special fund for those who cannot afford it.
Dr Jean Marie Vianney Ganza, a cardiologist with the Rwanda Military Hospital, Kanombe, said although no national survey has been carried out, it is estimated that about a million people have heart related diseases country wide.
He added that more than 400 patients have under gone cardiac surgery since 2005 countrywide.
Dr Yacoub of Team Heart said establishing such a centre requires collaboration from various players like the government, NGO’s, professionals in the field and the patients themselves.
“Heart diseases need special focus since its one of the major killer diseases worldwide. There is, therefore, a need for locally based specialised and dedicated centre to not only screen cardiovascular diseases but also offer surgery and follow up.”
He also called upon residents to exercise, have proper diets so as to avoid acquiring heart ailments.
Deborah Rukundo, a resident of Kiyovu, Kigali, and a former victim of rheumatic heart disease who underwent surgery in 2011 by the same team (Team Heart), also echoed a similar message.
“If it wasn’t for the visit by this team, I would probably be dead now. Establishing such facility would help cater for those who do not benefit from the volunteers, because the cases are clearly overwhelming for them,” she said.