ERATIC water supply at Zambia’s largest health facility, the University Teaching Hospital, has disrupted the week-long open heart surgery programme undertaken by a specialized Italian medical team at the institution.
An Italian NGO, We for Zambia, in collaboration with the UTH management, have carried out five successful pediatric open heart operations but were limited to only one operation per day due to lack of constant supply of water to the theatres.
One of the cardiac surgeons, Garlo Massini, said the absence of a 24-hour water supply to the institution forced them to cut down the number of children attended to from 20 to only seven because of the water situation.
“We were ready to do two or three operations per day but there was a challenge of water supply which usually cuts off around 3 pm (15 hrs) every afternoon, and we have no choice but to stop.
“Until Thursday, we operated on four children who are recuperating in the intensive care unit and we are scheduled to have another two for Friday and Saturday before some of our members return to Italy,” he said.
Dr Massini was speaking in an interview with the Daily Nation at a special dinner hosted for the 10 Italian doctors and health personnel at the Italian ambassador to Zambia Fillipo Scammaca’s residence in Lusaka.
Dr Massini was among 10 Italian pediatric heart specialists including seven surgeons, a cardiac theatre technician, an anesthetist and two nurses to perform open heart surgery for children with various congenital heart conditions.
He said the team, with support from Mission Bambini, another Italian NGO, have worked in other countries in Africa including Egypt, Cameroun, Uganda and now Zambia to operate on children born with various heart conditions.
He said it was a wonderful experience to work with Zambian medical staff who were eager to learn from the Italian team, but that there was need to establish 24-hour laboratory services and other supporting technical amenities such as theatre nurses, technicians and also cleaning staff if the hospital was to develop to a high level facility as expected.
He said the team was not only in the country to perform theatre operations but also to help facilitate expert training for local health staff to specialize in cardiac surgery and treatment to attend to the long list of patients awaiting specialist treatment.
The cardiac surgeon explained that the mission was in Zambia to help the UTH as a health institution to create an environment that would support such high level projects as open heart surgery with equipment, local health experts and support staff to improve care for cardiac patients.
The dinner was attended by Minister of Health Dr Joseph Kasonde and UTH managing director Ben Chirwa.