Gift of Life
Free Heart Surgeries for the Children of Fiji –April 2018
Every year 200 children with congenital heart defects (CHD) are born in Fiji. Most of these remain undiagnosed and thereby untreated. Fiji relies on visiting teams from Australia, New Zealand and India for cardiac care of her children. A small number of children are also sent overseas for more complex operations. An unpublished observational study performed at Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital over the period of five years from 2012 and 2016 gives a perspective of the problem. During this period, 200 children were admitted with treatable CHD at CWM hospital. Only 46 children were operated, 96 died and the remaining 68 are awaiting treatment.
Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital (Naya Raipur) was invited in February 2016 by the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services to understand the problem and provide a long term sustainable solution. A paediatric cardiac team visited Suva, Capital of Fiji in August 2016 in collaboration with Sai Prema Foundation Fiji. During this visit, 73 children were evaluated, 25 of these were operated in Fiji and four children were subsequently operated in India.
A second humanitarian visit to Fiji was made in April this year 2018. This was truly an international team comprising of members from India (seven), Australia (four), USA (two) and Oman (one) led by Dr Ashish Katewa, Director, Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital, Naya Raipur. The team evaluated 84 children with CHD. Twenty-six operations were performed, including complex repairs for TAPVC, Pulmonary Atresia and Ebsteins Anomaly.
These procedures were performed for the first time in Fiji. Another history of sorts was created, when the first paediatric cardiac interventions were performed in whole of the South Pacific. In addition, regular lectures were delivered for the local trainees.
It has been long recognised that, visiting humanitarian teams, though providing much needed care, are not the answer to the problem. Fiji needs its own paediatric cardiac service which is available to the children of Fiji for 365 days a year. An important step has been taken in that direction.
Sai Prema Foundation (SPF), a Fiji based NGO (non-government organization) has announced that a pediatric cardiac hospital will be established in Suva by the end of 2019, under the guidance of Sr Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital, India and support from Ministry of Health and Medical services, Government of Fiji.
This will be the first pediatric cardiac hospital in the South Pacific and will serve not only the children of Fiji, but also all other island nations in the South Pacific. Needless to mention, all services at this hospital will be rendered totally free of cost.