BELIZE CITY, Belize — On Monday, physicians from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), in Belize City, Belize, and from Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) performed the first open heart surgery in the country of Belize.
Adrian Coye, MD, medical services director at KHMH and Mark Stiegel, MD, FACS, cardiothoracic surgeon with CHS’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute (SHVI), performed a coronary artery bypass graft on a 72-year-old Belizean man. The patient is recovering at the hospital, where he will be monitored for at least three days post-surgery. On Tuesday, the surgeons were due to perform a mitral valve replacement on a 56-year-old Belizean woman, completing a second heart surgery.
“This is a very special moment that has allowed everyone involved to make history in Belize,” said Coye. “Belizean patients should receive the same level of care as others worldwide, and we are thrilled to have reached this point in what we can offer for medical services in our country.”
Although heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Belize, the country lacked a modern cardiovascular diagnostic and interventional facility up until 2011, when CHS’s International Medical Outreach (IMO) Program began providing support. Before that time, patients would either not receive treatment or would travel to neighbouring countries for cardiac services. Today, due to ongoing support from the IMO Program, KHMH has the equipment and medical expertise necessary to diagnose and treat patients with heart ailments in the country.
“This is an exciting time for the people of Belize, and we hope this achievement paves the way for future improvements in the country’s healthcare services,” said Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, founder and vice president of the IMO Program, a partnership between CHS and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte (Heineman). “In collaboration with SHVI, we will continue our support to KHMH and emerging cardiology program to provide sustainable cardiac care in Belize.”
The IMO Program donated and installed the country’s first fully-equipped cardiac catheterization laboratory in February 2011 at KHMH, one of only two major hospitals in Belize. The laboratory, also equipped with diagnostic imaging equipment, modernized cardiac care by 30 years.
Since October 2011, the IMO Program has sent cardiology teams from SHVI to perform catheterizations in Belize each month and will continue to send teams until the interventional cardiologist at KHMH is trained to perform catheterizations alone. The procedures performed in the laboratory have helped identify several patients in need of open heart surgery.
“We are proud and privileged to support our colleagues in Belize and to help them offer advanced cardiovascular services for the benefit of their citizens,” said Michael Tarwater, chief executive officer of CHS. “Our involvement in this momentous accomplishment is an outcome of CHS’s commitment to healthcare innovation and its quality cardiology programs through SHVI. We look forward to continuing our collaboration globally.”
The open heart surgery program at SHVI was ranked in the top 15 percent in the United States for coronary artery bypass graft and received a three out of three star rating by The Society for Thoracic Surgeons from July 2010 to June 2011.
The IMO Program also helped make possible the first heart transplant surgery in Costa Rica in 2007, and it co-founded the largest, most comprehensive heart institute in Central America, located in Guatemala City, in 1984. The institute was established nearly a decade after the Program assisted with the first five open heart surgeries in Guatemala.
Since the 1960s, the IMO Program has donated a variety of medical equipment to hospitals and clinics worldwide, and it has facilitated free educational opportunities for medical personnel from facilities globally. Coye and other medical staff at KHMH have benefited from educational experiences at CHS’s largest hospital, Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte.
“This is a milestone in the history of KHMH and of medicine in Belize,” said Gary Longsworth, MD, chief executive officer of KHMH. “The procedures prove what can be done when you have a committed and determined team, as well as wonderful cooperation from organizations like CHS and Heineman.”
News Source: Caribbean News Now