Restarting paediatric cardiac surgeries on the cards

– Minister Anthony
– discussions ongoing

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony says discussions are underway to restart paediatric cardiac surgeries and to facilitate at least 20 of them by year end.

Dr. Anthony said Government is keen on restarting this programme, as several children have been diagnosed with various cardiac pathologies that require surgery. He made this statement during Friday’s COVID-19 update.

“We had a team of overseas doctors that would come in at least once a year, and they would work along with the local staff here to do those surgeries. So, we built capacity and we were able to do some amount of surgeries here. Then a couple years ago that programme was stopped, which led to a backlog of patients.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been talking to the cardiac team that was here before and that was performing these surgeries, and they have agreed to come back to Guyana, starting this year,” Minister Anthony said.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony

Some 130 cases have so far been placed on hold as a result of the stoppage. This has resulted in many patients being severely affected, Minister Anthony said.   

“It was sad to see that the programme was dismantled. So, we’re now putting that back together because we have seen the tremendous benefits it would bring to these patients, obviously, saving their lives.

If you don’t operate in a timely manner and the children get too old, it becomes even more complicated and difficult, so there’s a window or time period in which the surgeries must be done. We can really prevent children from dying,” he said.   

Dr. Anthony added that restarting the surgeries would remove the additional cost of sending children overseas for treatment.

“To do a surgery of this nature, a patient had to be sent to the United States or Canada and it would cost maybe between US$30,000 to $50,000 per patient to do the surgeries. It is a challenge for us and it will cost us more in the long run to try to pay for the surgeries and send patients abroad, rather than being able to do those cases here,” the Minister said.

Dr. Anthony said every aspect of the plan is being examined to facilitate the process.

“The team would have to make an appraisal of the types of equipment that we currently have at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC], to buy a lot of the equipment and bring it in and then, by the end of the year, we’ll be able to bring in a specialist team to be able to do the cardiac surgery.”

Minister Anthony said Government is focused on ensuring the country’s health services are at a high standard, and that specialist services are also easily accessible to citizens. He said it is important that every child who needs surgery access it at the GPHC.

Further, he said, “This year, we are looking at building and designing a Maternal and Children’s Hospital.”

Dr. Anthony said his Ministry has been in discussions with bilateral partners to be able to develop this particular facility. Once it is fully developed, specialised programmes, like the cardiac programme, would become part of the services that would be offered. In the last two years, five children were sent overseas for paediatric cardiac surgeries. One was sent to the US and others to Cuba, and although the surgeries where successful, one child succumbed after the procedure.