FEATURE STORY

Thousands of Kids Heal Their Hearts for Free in Argentina

November 19, 2012


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Over 4,000 children are born with a congenital heart disease and two-thirds of the cases are treatable with timely diagnosis and surgical treatment.

Nahuel Berger / World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 3,800 children without health coverage were operated in the past three years due to a cardiovascular problem.
  • The congenital heart disease program implemented a system of diagnosis and treatment that covers the whole country.
  • The networking has reduced the waiting list by 80%.

Every day, a small room at the back of Julio Perrando Hospital receives about 35 children who are at risk for a heart condition. There awaits a group of two pediatricians and two cardiologists, including doctor Natalia Franchi, who is in charge of the Reference Center of the province of Chaco.

This scene has become routine since April 2010, when the Ministry of Health deepened the treatment of congenital heart disease by incorporating it to Plan Nacer, the public health coverage for mothers and children up to 6 years, supported by  the World Bank .

Since then, it has increased the number of  surgeries performed in the public sector, largely thanks to the launch of a network of 39 hospitals of reference, like Perrando’s Hospital, and 17 treatment centers, where doctors practice surgeries for free.

"Thanks to Plan Nacer, we provide an equal opportunity to all children, regardless of age and health coverage," says Franchi, who already led to nearly 200 children for surgery because of their heart disease.

In Argentina, it is estimated that each year over 4,000 children are born with a congenital heart disease and two-thirds of the cases are treatable with timely diagnosis and surgical treatment.


" Thanks to Plan Nacer, we provide an equal opportunity to all children, regardless of age and health coverage "

Natalia Franchi

Responsible for the Reference Center in the province of Chaco.

"Since 2010, we have received 7,900  reports from heart disease and could build a national registry that lets us know what is happening in each province in relation to this disease," says Alejandra Villa, pediatric cardiologist and coordinator of the Referral Center, located  in Garrahan Hospital in Buenos Aires. In this office, the  reports are compiled and then patients are  referred to the most appropriate center for surgery, depending on the complexity.

In the past three years, 3,800 children without health coverage were operated because of a cardiovascular problem.

For Villa, "it was key to have indicators and statistics and to work with online medical records across the country, so that the doctor can monitor the patient."

Furthermore, the program is putting together a network of early diagnosis, so the obstetricians and cardiologists can detect heart diseases in unborn children and  refer the mother to an appropriate facility. "The goal is to avoid the high risk involved in the transfer of a newborn who has a heart disease," said Villa.

All of this is complemented with training for child cardiologists, surgeons, therapists and nurses, to strengthen human resources and ensure quality care. The networking has reduced the waiting list by 80%.



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