Heart patients to undergo free surgery at King Faisal Hospital

At least 16 Rwandan heart patients are set to benefit from a free surgery camp this month.
Dr Joaquin Bielsa, King Faisal Hospital chief executive officer, during the interview at his office.
Dr Joaquin Bielsa, King Faisal Hospital chief executive officer, during the interview at his office.

At least 16 Rwandan heart patients are set to benefit from a free surgery camp this month.

The camp will be sponsored by the Ministry of Health and King Faisal Hospital, in partnership with Team Heart, an international non-profit organisation.

Team Heart, working with at least 67 specialised surgeons, will first conduct the free surgery on the 16 patients at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, and later conduct another camp towards the end of the year.

According to Dr Joaquin Bielsa, King Faisal Hospital chief executive officer, the Free Heart surgery initiative is part of activities to be implemented under their ‘Oshen Healthcare Medical cardiologic treatment Plan’ which is aimed at, among others, building the hospital’s capacity to handle specialised cases.

“Under the plan which we are implementing in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, two cardiologists for adult patients as well as one part-time pediatrician cardiologist specialist are already working with King Faisal Hospital,” said Dr Bielsa.

The initiative will also see the establishment of a fully equipped catheterisation laboratory, which is an examination room that will be fitted with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualise the arteries and chambers of the heart and treat any abnormalities found.

Team Heart’s training will cover different areas of expertise, including invasive hemodynamic monitoring; immediate post cardiac surgery nursing management; patient ventilation in thoracic surgeries; management of cardiac temponade - a post-open heart surgery

complication; and acid -base and electrolytes balance relating to cardiac surgery.

According to Dr Nathan Ruhamya, a senior cardiologist at the hospital, they have registered over 100 patients in need of cardiac surgery.

“For this reason our partnership with Team Heart experts is very critical in terms of development of capacity to handle such cases and managing the patient backlog in the medium term,” he said.

Ruhamya also urged the public to desist from practices that endanger their cardiovascular health.

“Most of these diseases are connected to bad lifestyle habits, such as drinking alcohol, smoking and limited exercise. These are habits we need to discard,” he said.

Sharing knowledge and experience

Team Heart, has since 28th February trained at least 40 KFH Nurses building their capacities on how to handel specialized cases.

The training focused mainly on  invasive hemodynamic monitoring post cardiac surgery nursing management, patient ventilation in thoracic surgeries, management of cardiac tamponade as post open heart surgery complication and acid-base and electrolytes balance relating to the cardiac surgery among others.

The hospital has a plan to make cardiology an area of excellence which includes constructing an extension for cardiology service and the ICU.

According to Judith Katunge, the nursing unit manager and head of intensive care and high dependency units at King Faisal Hospital, this particular partnership has helped enhance the hospital’s human capacity in terms of skills and experience on how to handle heart cases.

“The training has helped enlighten our staff on management of patients and post cardiac operations,” she noted.

The initiative is an opportunity for us as nurses to share knowledge and expertise on how to best handle some of these cases, she said adding.

Ruhamya noted that most patients with rheumatic heart diseases, if operated upon, can regain their activity and become productive.

Heart operations are among the most expensive surgeries, with the cost of a single operation currently going for over Rwf18 million ($25,000).

Globally, Rheumatic heart disease affects more than 32 million people, 80 per cent of whom live in the developing world. Children and young adults are the most affected, accounting for many of the 275,000 people who die from the disease annually. Pregnant women are at particularly high risk of death.

Team Heart, with representatives from Cardiac Surgery, Cardiology, Anesthesiology, Nursing, (based in New England, but with volunteers from 15 states in USA) in collaboration with the Rwandan Ministry of Health, and the Rwanda Heart Foundation (RHF) are in their 10th year of this project designed to address one of the most common heart problems in Africa - rheumatic heart disease.