Most Zimbabweans are unemployed and are barely managing to get the basics and officials say half of the people with heart diseases had died owing to the shut-down of heart surgery operations in the country in 2003.
The Heart Foundation of Zimbabwe says “heart surgery is complex and very expensive” and costs about R70 000 (US $4,000) per operation for an adult and around R 90 000 (US $6,000) for a paediatric open heart surgery.
Read: First heart surgery in Zimbabwe since 2003
These costs are exclusive of other expenses such as those for drugs and sundries in an economy where an economic meltdown is forcing companies to shut down, retrench and cut salaries to manage.
Moreover, Zimbabwe’s health delivery system has taken a knock over the past few years owing to the withdrawal of donor support and a worsening economic crisis that has meant limited funding for the crucial sector.
Medicinal drugs have reportedly been running out at the country’s hospitals while outbreaks of typhoid have worsened in the capital Harare this week.
There are about 400 people that are on the waiting list for cardiac surgery in Zimbabwe and they would have had to seek attention in India or South Africa.
However, Medtronic has undertaken to supply critical equipment needed in cardiac surgery, as well as ongoing training and sourcing of expertise to assist in complex surgeries at the Parirenyatwa Hospital and the College of Health Science.
Read: SA remains a world leader in cardiac medicine
"We lost at least half of the people who needed surgery during that time – all unnecessary deaths,” said Dr David Chimuka, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon at the Parirenyatwa Hospital.
The equipment that has now been availed for the resumption of heart surgery operations in Zimbabwe include a heart-lung machine, which temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery, a heater/cooler device for temperature control and an Activated Clotting Time (ACT) device to prevent blood clots.
Additional, an autoLog Autotransfusion (cell saver) System, which enables patients to receive transfusions with their own blood during surgical procedures is now also available.
About 10 Zimbabwean children that were born with congenital heart disease will be the first to receive surgery under an operation to repair ventricular septal defects (a hole in the inner wall of the heart).
Experts say about one child in every 100 children that are born has congenital heart disease in Zimbabwe. Statistics show that all-cause cardio-vascular disease has the second highest non-communicable disease mortality rate after cancer.
Read: Indian hospitals offer R7 362 heart surgery
Rheumatic heart disease, which is also treatable with heart surgery also tops the list of cardiac illnesses that have a high mortality rate.
The first paediatric operation has already been performed early this year and it is expected that as many as 150 cardiac surgeries on children and adults will be performed every year.
Dr Chaminuka said a Zimbabwe Heart Foundation is now being established to help raise funds for patients who would have failed to raise their own funds for the operations.
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