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Heart surgery ease for children

Yvette Best

Heart surgery ease for children

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THE BACKLOG of paediatric heart surgeries at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the cost to Government could soon be considerably reduced.
Following recent discussions between Dr Richard Ishmael, consultant cardiologist at the QEH, and officials at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of the University of Florida in Jacksonville, head of paediatric cardiac surgery, Dr Eric Ceitaml, has offered to bring a paediatric cardiac surgical team to the QEH to assist the local cardiac surgery team with procedures on children with congenital heart disease.
There is a backlog of at least 30 children waiting for heart surgery, and it would cost Government a lot less if the procedures were done at the QEH. 
Six Barbadian children have had surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital so far, three of them in the last two months.
Three children are currently in Jacksonville. Three-month-old Niasha Greenidge, with transposition of the great arteries, has had successful heart surgery and will be returning home next week. 
Two-month-old Jacobi Hackett, with two holes in his heart, an obstructed aorta and anomalously draining pulmonary veins, has had heart surgery in two stages and is at present still on a ventilator in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. 
The infant was transferred from the QEH to Wolfson as an emergency by air ambulance two weeks ago accompanied by consultant neonatologist Dr Gillian Birchwood. 
Eight-month-old Aiden Green, who has a large hole between the two lower chambers of his heart, is awaiting surgery. 
Ishmael’s trip to Florida was primarily to cement a relationship that he developed with Professor Jose Ettedgui of the Division of Paediatric Cardiology there. 
The relationship was developed whereby indigent children from Barbados who need heart surgery would have the surgery done at Wolfson at a significantly subsidized rate. The cost of each surgery would be US$25 000, which is about 50 per cent of the market cost for congenital heart surgery in the United States, which is normally US$50 000 to $60 000. 
This relationship with Wolfson Children’s Hospital developed when Barbados’ special relationship with Schneiders Children’s Hospital of the North Shore/LIJ Health System in New York ended in 2007.
That programme, which started in 1982, ended in 2007 mainly because economic conditions in the United States and the United States health care system no longer allowed hospitals to provide cardiac surgical care at such subsidized costs. North Shore will still do the surgery on Barbadian children, but now at market costs. 
Between 1982 and 2007 about 200 Barbadian patients and 500 patients from the entire Caribbean had surgery in New York under this programme.
During his visit to Jacksonville, Ishmael had talks with Wolfson Children’s Hospital administrators and Professor Ettedgui, head of paediatric cardiology and a paediatric interventional cardiologist, and Ceitaml.
Ettedgui has already been to Barbados and in July 2009 he and Ishmael operated on five children who had holes in their hearts at Bracebridge Medical Centre. The trip to Barbados was sponsored by Variety Clubs Caribbean.