Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sri Lanka - Children with heart disease at risk in Sri Lanka

Around 3,000 to 5,000 children in Sri Lanka, who are scheduled to undergo heart surgery at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (in capital Colombo), the Teaching Hospital Kandy (in central city Kandy), and the Teaching Hospital Karapitiya (in southern province Karapitiya), are at risk as they have to be in the waiting lists.

Although Sri Lanka boasts of providing an excellent health service, a considerable number of children scheduled for heart surgery die due to long waiting lists and lack of operating facilities for children in other hospitals, a doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

He said that children who had been recommended to undergo heart surgery due to congenital heart defects and other heart ailments were referred only to the three hospitals.

The doctor added that the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), on several occasions, had brought this issue to the notice of Health Authorities. The GMOA had a comprehensive discussion with Director General of Health Services Dr. Ajith Mendis on the expansion of hospitals for cardiac surgeries of children.

A few years ago, a child heart patient, scheduled for an operation, had to wait eight years.

He added that the GMOA had requested the Director General of Health Services to convert Peradeniya Srimavo Bandaranaike Children’s Hospital into a specialised hospital, especially with the introduction of cardiology and cardiac thoracic surgery units for children. If it materialised, the long congestion of child heart patients could be reduced.

The doctors said that the construction work on the Peradeniya Children’s hospital left much to be desired, because though the construction had to be completed in 2007, with the allocation of 426 million rupees (US$8.3 million), the work had still been going on with additional expenses of 300 million rupees.

When contacted Karapitiya Teaching Hospital Director Dr. Shelton Perera said that the operating theatres had been closed for renovation a few months back, but they had now been renovated. Cardiac surgeons and theatre staff had resumed their duties. Although there had been slight delays in the surgeries on children in the past, there would not be any delays in the future.

The Lady Ridgeway Hospital Director Dr. Ranasiri H. Hewage said that annually around 2,500 babies were born with congenital heart defects. Most babies were born with hole in the heart. But, in some cases children who were suffering from vascular Septal defects could be cured as they grew older.

"The Lady Ridgeway Hospital performs 850 to 950 paediatric heart surgeries per year. A few years ago patients had to wait more than 5 years to undergo an operation. But now the paediatric cardiac surgeons were highly motivated to perform their duties," Dr. Hewage said.

Don Asoka Wijewardena
The Island

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