ZIMBABWE is in dire need of specialist care for children with congenital heart diseases amidst indications that the country only has two specialist paediatric cardiologists, this paper has learnt.
By HealthTimes Correspondent
These revelations were made by the Brave Little Hearts in Zimbabwe (BHLZ), a local support network that advocates for better health care for children with heart diseases. Speaking to HealthTimes, BHLZ founder and executive director Ms Tendai Moyo said there were only two specialist cardiologists for children with one in the public health service and another in the private health sector.
We only have about two specialist paediatric cardiologist in Zimbabwe. Only one is attached to a public hospital. The other one Dr Bannerman is in the private sector. So, we need these specialists to actually work on these heart diseases because we are speaking of one in every 100 births is a child with heart disease leading to about 3000 births per year of these children. So, with one specialist in a government hospital, it is quite a big strain,” she said.
Due to the shortage of specialist care in the country, the nation is losing millions of dollars annually as citizens seek and access services abroad mostly as last resort.
“We are also looking at the right to surgery. Most of these surgeries are done overseas and most of these children’s guardians or parents cannot afford them. So, we are trying to advocate for local solutions in Zimbabwe so that Hospitals like Parirenyatwa, Mpilo and Ekusileni are equipped for surgeries here locally instead of parents trying to raise money to go overseas.”
She said deaths and complications for children with heart diseases can be avoided through early detection, something Zimbabwe’s health sector is inadequately capacitated.
“Heart diseases are about 60 times more prevalent than childhood cancer but there is not much awareness to these diseases. We are advocating for the right to early diagnosis. most of these children are diagnosed late when they are critical," added Ms Moyo.
She also said the heart conditions can be diagnosed early even when the child is still in the womb or immediately after the child is born.
“Our health frontline staff need awareness programs of these diseases and resources or equipment for the hospitals like oximeters for early detection and ECG machines,” Ms Moyo said adding that more investment towards children’s heart health could go a long way in easing the burden on these children.
Meanwhile, BLHZ gave children with heart conditions a Christams cheer by donating food hampers worth ZW$3000 per family.