• Warns 5 per cent Nigerians have Heart Diseases

Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

The University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu says it has successfully carried out Open Heart Surgeries (OHS) on at least 130 persons since the recommencement of the programme in the hospital in March 2013.

This is coming as the hospital raised the alarm that over five per cent of the nation’s population may be living with Surgically Amenable Conditions and asked governments at all levels to map out resources to arrest the situation before it degenerates to an unmanageable level.

Briefing newsmen at the hospital on the resumption of the 12th session of the programme where 22 patients are expected to benefit from, the UNTH Chief Medical Director, Dr. Chris Amah said another vital facility to the open heart surgery, the Cardiac Catheterization laboratory had been acquired and installed in the hospital with about 15 patients already benefitting from it.

Amah noted that the hospital would want to carry out at least 100 open heart surgeries annually if enabled by funding, noting that because of the huge financial involvement in carrying out the exercise coupled with the fact that most people with heart related diseases were poor, most people were yet to take advantage of the exercise in the hospital.

“I can tell, you that if we have improved funding, we can even handle 200 cases per annum and this will save this country huge sums of money that ordinarily would have left the country through capital flight,” he said.

According to him, out of the 22 patients slated to be operated upon, two persons received sponsorship from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), another patient received sponsorship from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, while their partners from the VOOM Foundation led by Dr. Vincent Ohaju are taking care of two indigent persons.

While explaining that the new facility, the Cardiac Catheterization Machine which came through the University of Nigeria Education Trust fund would help to reduce the number of people that would go through the process of open heart surgery as it helps in accurately detecting the state of hearts of patients, Amah said improved funding had become imperative.

“This machine is very important for the accurate evaluation of patients before surgery. It helps to reduce number of people that would go through open heart surgery. If you have just the blockade of pulmonary artery, the machine will easily detect it and is something that can just be handled.

Like I said earlier already 15 patients with various heart-related ailments have passed through the laboratory and successfully too. Indeed, the UNTH cardiac centre of excellence has come to stay,” he said.

Also speaking, the Head of Cardiology Department of the Hospital, Prof. Basden Onwubere lamented that research had shown that over five per cent of Nigerians both children and adults live with Surgically Amenable conditions, urging urgent attention in that regard.

“Five per cent of 170 million is so much, many people who have heart diseases and in need of operation are poor, they just call it rheumatic fever and the person’s valve is terribly damaged, many people are not able to do anything because of money. It costs a lot of money. Now we have the manpower, we need government funding

“Government has to sponsor people, if every state sponsors 10 patients each year, it would go a long way in reducing the number. If not for our foreign collaborators, it would have been a big issue,” he lamented.

He also expressed optimism that very soon, doctors from the hospital who had undergone intensive overseas training would be handling the open heart surgeries without assistance from foreign doctors.