Health Life News

Operation Open Heart Lacks Government Support

by Vanessa Knight – EM TV, Port Moresby

There is promising news for cardio patients in the country, following the successful open heart surgery administered on four patients at the Port Moresby General Hospital, by an all-PNG cardiac surgical team.

Since its inception in 1992, over 900 Papua New Guinean lives have been saved through Operation Open Heart.

The few cardio specialists in the country are now calling on the PNG government to support the program and help save lives.

Dr Noah Tapaua, from New Ireland Province, is one of only two cardiothoracic specialist surgeons in the country, leading the PNG team of 13 medical professionals.

Dr Tapaua said in 2009, cardiovascular diseases received government recognition as a national issue.

However, the medical program primarily depends on fundraising drives and support from the PNG business community.

In 23 years, funds have been used to conduct operations, assist specialists to further enhance training overseas and purchase equipment and medical supplies.

Dr Tapaua says apart from donors, the only government assistance by the national health department, is from the annual budget for screening. And not much has been effected on the floor of parliament lately.

On estimation, approximately 40 per cent of Papua New Guineans may once experience cardio complications.

Dr Tapaua says coronary heart disease is commonly found in developing nations, due to poor diet and sanitation habits.

Last month after successfully conducting complex procedures, Dr Tapaua and team are confident to continue with more patients. Their call is for the government to take full ownership of this program.

With a qualified PNG-based team, this will trim down on external visits from open heart doctors in Singapore and Australia, and for the money to be redirected towards local operations.

The estimated cost of operating on a patient at the Port Moresby General Hospital is less than K20,000 which is equivalent to K300,000 in Singapore or Australia.

Two other PNG doctors are currently undergoing training, respectively as an adult cardiologist in the United Kingdom, and Intervention Cardiologist in Singapore.

Like Dr Tapaua and his counterparts, all have been sponsored by the Operation Open Heart Organisation.

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