Taking a big stride, the Tamil Nadu Government has decided to join hands with leading private hospitals to provide treatment and surgeries to children with congenital heart diseases.
Since the burden of such needy children is heavy in government hospitals, the Health Department has decided to have a tie-up with private hospitals so that children with heart malfunctioning can receive immediate medical attention. This was disclosed by the Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine P. Padmanaban.
"In about 10 days, the scheme will be launched. The Government has identified some hospitals in different parts of the State and children who require treatment can go to these accredited hospitals and they need not wait," Padmanaban was quoted.
Under this scheme, the Government will pay directly to private hospitals on behalf of the patient. The scheme is meant for deserving people who have been screened and tested at government hospitals, the minister added.
The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the State Government are expected to extend financial support for the scheme.
In addition, children screened at the 'Varumun Kappom' camps and who are detected with heart problems can opt for treatment at private hospitals.
There are basically two groups of heart diseases in children - one is congenital heart disease, in which the child is born with a heart defect and the other being acquired, predominantly rheumatic heart disease.
Heart disease in children has a high mortality rate. Without treatment 90% of children with congenital heart disease die in the first year of life and a further 9% die before adolescence. Thus less than 1% of children with untreated congenital heart disease survive into adulthood. Even these children have a very low life expectancy of 30 to 40 years.
Children with heart disease can be severely incapacitated. The main complaints are breathlessness, repeated chest infections, cyanosis, weight loss and growth retardation. The affected children usually require regular medical check-ups. Severe cases where heart failure ensues may require frequent hospitalization for control of symptoms. Thus heart disease can interfere with the growth and development of the child, including education and extra-curricular activities. The disability caused by childhood heart disease is all the more poignant because most of these children have normal intelligence, not to mention the fact that less than 1% of them survive into adulthood.
The incidence of congenital heart disease is about 1 per 100 live births as per western statistics. Given a current birth rate of 23/1000 population for the whole of India, it is estimated that about 250,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects every year in our country.
For Tamil Nadu, the incidence of congenital heart defect is about 14,000 cases per year.
Medical and surgical treatment for children with heart disease is provided by government hospitals where treatment is free. But, in spite of their best efforts, many of these government hospitals are severely restricted by the dual burden of relatively inadequate resources and excessive volume of patients. There is usually a long waiting-list of children needing heart surgery. This leads to a situation wherein the optimum timing of surgery has passed and many children become inoperable; they eventually face a tragic death in front of the very eyes of their helpless parents. According to hospital data, congenital heart disease ranks as the second most common cause of death after respiratory disease.