Gaping hole in heart list
GMOA’s battle for cardiologists
By Apsara Kapukotuwa
The failure to give suitable appointments to three heart surgeons, who have returned from abroad is denying the country the opportunity of reducing the long wait of patients for heart operations, the Government Medical Officers Association said.

The GMOA said heart surgeons often preferred to practice abroad due to poor salaries and lack of proper facilities here. As a result even children with heart defects were forced to wait 6-8 years for operations.

GMOA secretary Anurudhdha Padeniya said it seemed that Sri Lanka had no option but to continue to collect names on a waiting list that extended upto 2013.

"That is due to the usual occurrence of congenital heart defects in eight in every thousand babies born. Six of these are correctible by surgery and is commonly known as hole in the heart. The cost of sending some of these patients abroad, even with funding from the Presidents' Fund is generally between one hundred thousand and three hundred thousand rupees," he said. According to Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, the long term cost of looking after a patient who goes into pulmonary hypertension due to the lack of early surgery is often more than the cost of the surgery itself.

The reasons for the delay in operating those with heart defects are surprisingly few and look relatively easy to solve. Sri Lanka has six heart surgeons of whom two are attached to the private sector. The others are attached to the Colombo National Hospital and the Galle Karapitiya Hospital.

Even though the Kandy General Hospital has built three comprehensive heart surgery units, with the aid of hadhawath mithuro under the guidance of Dr. A.L.M. Beligaswatte five years ago, no surgeon has yet been appointed to take over its duties. The technical facilities provided therein are sufficient for three surgeon cardiologists to operate without hindrance.

The need to establish and reinforce cardiothorasic surgery in the country has long been the battle cry of the GMOA. Three years ago, the GMOA presented a National Strategy Plan on how to combat this issue-to date, they state, no move has been taken regarding it.

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