Lockdown: Heart disease patients in quandary

The ban on travel due to the coronavirus outbreak has affected people suffering from heart complications who are forced to travel overseas for treatment.

While local public hospitals such as Mpilo Hospital, Parirenyatwa and Harare Central Hospital offer these services, most complicated cases are often referred to international specialist hospitals.

One local organisation, Brave Little Hearts Zimbabwe (BLHZ), has called for improved and sustainable local solutions for the treatment of cardiac conditions. 

BLHZ is a congenital heart disease advocacy awareness and family support network which empowers and supports families with members suffering from congenital heart disease. 

Cardiac patients are people with a cardiovascular disease which refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pains or stroke, coronary artery disease, chest discomfort and congestive heart failure. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many countries enforcing travel ban restrictions in a bid to stem the spread of the novel virus.  

In an interview with CITE, the founder of BLHZ, Tendai Moyo said some families who depended on International surgeries have been affected due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

“In our organisation, we have 80 family members, our challenges as the heart community remains hidden from society as there is no awareness of this desperate community and it is difficult getting sponsors and donors for our cause despite this birth defect being a number one birth killer 60 times more prevalent than cancer,” said Moyo. 

“We were solely dependent on the Italians who would help a few and take them for surgery in Italy and also those who had medical aids could fundraise for India, they would get lifesaving surgeries but with COVID-19 all these children can no longer go overseas due to closed borders.” 

Moyo said children suffering from heart diseaseS barely have access to the expensive medication. 

“Locally, now more than ever, we need those sustainable solutions, we have been advocating for these life-saving surgeries as we might lose cardiac patients who are also high-risk patients to COVID-19,” she said. 

“Other African countries have sustainable structures for heart surgeries such as South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, we hope our government will seriously consider taking care of its heart community by offering treatment even for the complex type of conditions. 

Contacted for a comment, Mpilo Hospital clinical director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said travel restrictions have dealt a heavy blow on children suffering from cardiac conditions.  

“Children suffering from heart conditions are suffering like everyone due to COVID-19 due to travel ban restrictions. So far we have not lost any children,” said Dr Ngwenya.

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