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Mpilo opens heart unit for children

MPILO Central Hospital opened a pediatric cardiac centre yesterday, the second in Zimbabwe as Government pushes to ensure that those suffering from congenital heart diseases (CHD) are attended to locally.

CHD refers to abnormality in the heart that develops before birth and is one of the most common types of birth defects.

Symptoms include abnormal heart rhythms, blue-tinted skin, shortness of breath, failure to feed or develop normally, and swollen body tissue or organs.

Treatments include medication to lower blood pressure and control heart rate, heart devices, catheter procedures and surgery and those born with that disease may not live up to five years if no intervention is made to save their lives.

The Mpilo centre was established after requests by members of the public who for years were sometimes forced to travel to other countries for the services.

Yesterday’s opening of the unit located at the Mpilo Pediatric Hospital was deliberately timed to coincide with the commemoration of World Heart Day which is observed annually on September 29.

The commemoration’s objetive is to increase awareness of cardiovascular diseases and how to control them in order to negate their global impact.

In Zimbabwe, the service that will now be offered at Mpilo was only available in Harare at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals forcing members of the public from the southern region to incur huge travelling costs.

Many patients that required surgery were in the past forced to seek the services in South Africa and India.
Surgery costs for congenital heart disease can go up to US$10 000 excluding flights, accommodation and medicine which is out of reach for ordinary Zimbabweans.

At least 40 babies from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands provinces succumbed to heart defects last year according to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

One in every 1000 children is born with a CHD.

The report says Zimbabwe is among the most affected countries with a record of 200 affected children a year.

In a speech read on his behalf by Mpilo acting clinical director Mr Francis Chiwora, Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said it was part of Government’s plans to ensure heart surgeries are accessed locally by members of the public.

“The Government is facilitating the training of nurses and other health workers to join this team so that our unit becomes a success. It pains me to see our people spending forex to travel out of the country when we can save the hard-to-get forex and develop our own units by acquiring machinery so that all children can access this service,” said Dr Mangwiro.

“I am happy to be here today to witness the opening of this unit which will serve our children with heart conditions and eventually we will be able to conduct surgeries from this place as the Government is committed to meeting this need.”

In a speech read on her behalf by Khami district coordinator Ms Tsvagai Fikile Marovatsanga, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said she was happy that people in the southern region will have access to pediatric cardiological services from Mpilo.

“As a province we feel honoured as more specialist health facilities are commissioned. The opening of this specialist unit will offer readily available health care and improved treatment to our pediatric patients as well as offer research for our medical personnel. I am confident that this facility will help improve access to specialist services and corrective care to children with cardiac conditions,” said Minister Ncube.

“In the past caregivers had to travel to other towns and countries in search of medical help. The commissioning of the Mpilo Pediatric Cardiac Centre bears testimony to the second Republic’s commitment towards improving health care facilities in the country and to saving lives,” she said.

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