The chairman of the Rwanda Heart Foundation, Dr Joseph Mucumbitsi, has called for combined efforts that will see the launch of a fully equipped cardiac centre, capable of performing open heart surgery.
According to Mucumbitsi, who is also the coordinator of the Cardiac Surgery Program at King Faisal Hospital there are four visiting volunteer groups that perform surgeries thrice a year.
“We believe it is high time to mobilise funds to buy equipment, send more local staff like cardiac surgeons, intensivists, anesthetists, perfusionists, nurses and cardiac technologists, and others, for training abroad and to build a sustainable cardiac surgery program over the next five years,” Mucumbitsi said.
He noted that the visiting teams are committed to supporting the initiative.
The visiting doctors operate on 65 - 75 patients, annually.
“All the teams are volunteer groups contributing their time, equipment and expertise as well as meeting their own travel costs. The Ministry of Health covers the teams’ accommodation and additional patient's hospitalisation costs,” Mucumbitsi added.
“Given the long waiting list of patients that need surgery (at least 150), visiting teams cannot operate all the patients and sending them abroad for specialised cardiac care is too expensive.”
Other life-saving items needed for surgical operations and care which volunteers bring include valves and medication with a value of about US$300,000 per trip.
The volunteers have already donated sophisticated and expensive equipment including two heart-lung machines worth US$ 1 million. Dr. Mucumbitsi said the program helped to improve standards of care and enhance the “level of ancillary services.”
Since 2006, 221 patients have benefited from cardiac interventions, including 176 surgeries of 115 children and 61 adults and 45 transcatheter interventions in children.
“If all those patients had been sent abroad, the cost would have been between US$ 10,000 and US$ 35,000 per case in India or South Africa,” Dr. Mucumbitsi said.
“In terms of costs, it has saved huge amounts of money. Over the last five years, an estimated total of US$ 2,210,000 was saved,”