Indian Option gives Hope to Heart Patients Here

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: If there is one thing that tugs at the heartstrings of Dr Patrick Lawrence, it is reports of parents appealing for donations to enable their children to undergo corrective heart surgery in private hospitals.

Due to insufficient facilities and paediatric cardiac surgeons at Institut Jantung Negara and government hospitals, the waiting list for surgery is long. Time is often not on the side of young patients.

As a result, many desperate parents have been forced to source public donations to fund their child’s treatment at private hospitals.

“No child should have to beg for funds to live,” said Dr Lawrence, the medical director of MediAssist4U, an NGO providing medical care to haves and have-nots.

“Our aim is to make healthcare affordable to everyone because the language of pain and suffering does not discriminate. Our services are available to everyone, regardless of their financial status.”

Since 2006, MediAssist4U has helped about 60 Malaysian children undergo corrective heart surgery with the help of the Narayana Hrudayalaya (NH) Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Bangalore, India.

The Bangalore operations cost less than those in Malaysia.

Heart surgery for children costs around RM10,000 at the Narayana Hrudayalaya, while for adults, charges are between RM8,000 and RM10,000.

This has been made possible through telecardiology, pioneered by the Narayana Hrudayalaya chairman and chief cardiologist, Dr Devi Prasad Shetty.

According to Dr Lawrence, the initial diagnosis was done at the MediAssist4U clinic, which is online to the Narayana Hospital.

“For example, we do the ECG and other tests at our clinic here and the information is transmitted to the cardiologists at Narayana Hrudayalaya, who diagnose the patient’s condition and recommend treatment.”

“We have done more than 2,700 ECGs for free over the last five years. And it doesn’t cost us anything because everything is online and we have specialists from private and government hospitals who volunteer their services.”

Once a diagnosis has been made, the patient can choose to have the treatment or corrective surgery done locally or at Narayana Hrudayalaya.

“Because of the long waiting period and high cost of surgery here, many opt to do it at Narayana Hrudayalaya.”

In most cases, the cost of surgery, plus travel and accommodation for the accompanying relative, does not exceed RM15,000.

The low cost and world-class treatment at the hospital have come as a blessing to hundreds of Malaysians, especially children, who suffer from a range of heart ailments, including complicated cases such as ectopic heart (where the heart is not properly located in the body).

Since 2006, 10 Malaysian toddlers and about 40 adults have undergone treatment at Narayana Hrudayalaya. Some of the patients were from low-income backgrounds and their surgeries were done for free.

During a teleconference with the Malaysian media recently, Dr Shetty said the telecardiology service between the Narayana Hrudayalaya and cardiac care centres in Malaysia, Mauritius and Bangladesh, had made cardiac care more affordable.

This facility also enabled easier follow-up treatment of the patient from his home country.

The 285-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya conducts 30 open heart surgeries every day, half of which are done free.

As one of the world’s largest paediatric heart hospitals, Narayana Hrudayalaya conducts 40 per cent of its surgeries on children, some as young as a day old.

It is the first hospital in Asia to carry out an artificial heart transplant on a 54-year-old Indian man in March.


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