Heart Health

Updated 05 October 2016

New cardiac centre the only one of its kind in Africa

A pioneering cardiac service in radial angiography will now be offered at a new heart centre at the Division of Cardiology, Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape.


Launched yesterday, 10 November 2014, a new state-of-the art cardiac facility, under the directive of SUNHEART and the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, has seen a multi-million rand investment by key private and public partners, of which Medtronic is the principle partner.  This will enable the Division of Cardiology to offer advanced cardiac care to more patients, especially from previously disadvantaged communities in and around the Western Cape, and alleviate current angiography bottlenecks in the region.

SUNHEART is a newly established, non-profit foundation that strives for equal access to advanced cardiac care for all patients. “In South Africa more than 50 000 patients annually require advanced cardiac care such as coronary angiography. Yet, many don’t have access to these procedures and are therefore denied potentially life-saving treatments, including coronary stents. The first dedicated radial suite at the Division of Cardiology will see a significant increase in the number of patients we are able to treat,” says Professor Anton Doubell, Head of the Cardiology Division and Director of SUNHEART.

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New approach to angiography

Radial angiography allows patients to have coronary angiography and interventions, including stent placement, by accessing a small blood vessel in the arm rather than having to puncture the large blood vessels in the groin. This improvement on the standard approach has markedly increased the safety of the procedure and the comfort of the patient. The new radial suite situated in the angiography theatre complex will allow patients to be admitted and discharged on the same day. “Not only are we looking at ‘business class coronary intervention’ in a state-of-the-art facility, but radial angiography and stenting through our radial suite will significantly reduce the need for an overnight hospital stay,” says Doubell.

“As we shift to a value-based healthcare culture, the need for innovative solutions that result in high-quality, cost-effective healthcare is more important than ever before. In an effort to improve and shape cardiac healthcare in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, we have invested in SUNHEART by providing the platform to train a significant number of cardiologists on radial techniques in these regions. This entails providing equipment, training workshops, hands-on support, and our expertise in the African market and the cardio vascular business to ensure the sustainability of the unit,” says Managing Director Medtronic South Africa, Mike Howe-Ely, an investment partner in the new facility.


An image of one of the first patients to undergo radial angiography at the SUNHEART radial lounge. Pictured with him from left to right are Managing Director of Medtronic Mike Howe-Ely, Medtronic Director William Stranix, SUNHEART chairman Dr. Alfonso Pecoraro and Head of Cardiology at Tygerberg Hospital Professor Anton Doubell.

The investment in SUNHEART has seen the building of state-of-the art infrastructure, resulting in an expansion of service delivery and improved workflow. This has meant redesigning the outpatient service, introducing paperless reporting systems as well as developing echocardiography imaging – and stress test services for an improved "one-stop" patient offering.

Further support for the improvement of service delivery by the unit comes in the form of an innovative outreach programme where consultants render a decentralised cardiology service at referral hospitals which will improve the access of patients to cardiac care in remote areas outside of Cape Town.  An important outcome of this programme is the training of health care professionals at these hospitals.

“By investing in top quality personnel and through the building of strategic partnerships, this unit has firmly established itself as a cutting edge institution at the forefront of cardiology service delivery, training and research. SUNHEART is a success story that demonstrates what can be achieved through the building of public-private partnerships,” says Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha. “Facilitating the building of partnerships between the public health sector and private funders is an important ingredient in healthcare planning for the future of South Africa.”

SUNHEART is actively investing in research and training aimed at the eradication of diseases that are relevant to the South African and African context. The first SUNHEART sponsored research project, Echo in Africa (EIA), was launched this year in collaboration with the British Society of Echocardiography (BSE).  EIA involves the screening of large numbers of school children for rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

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The Division of Cardiology has become the premier training facility for young cardiologists in South Africa and even further afield in Africa. An additional funded training fellowship and the renovation of the lecture room, resulting in an ultra-modern lecture facility, has boosted the teaching and training activities at the unit. The unit is a centre of excellence for radial angiography and percutaneous intervention, valvular heart disease, pericardial disease and advanced cardiac imaging and boasts an echocardiography training and service infrastructure that is world-class in Africa and South Africa.  

A vision of equal access to advanced healthcare for all can only be achieved through a culture of collective responsibility. SUNHEART believes this culture already exists, and through finding partners who share in their vision they will make an important contribution to the lives and health of patients.

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