Teacher. Stephen Brown Photo: Supplied
Free State University (UFS) pediatric heart specialist Professor Stephen Brown is leading a collaborative initiative to save the lives of children with heart defects in the Free State.
This involves the UFS, the Mother and Child Academic Hospital (Macah) Foundation and the Discovery Fund. The collaboration was announced on September 1.
An outreach project launched in 2016 has been enhanced to reach rural areas of the Free State to diagnose heart defects in babies early.
“This will help curb the deaths of young patients from congenital heart disease and make services more accessible to rural communities,” Brown said.
He is Senior Specialist and Head of the Pediatric Cardiology Division of the Pediatrics and Child Health Department of the Faculty of Health Sciences at UFS. He also provides service to the Universitas University Hospital in Bloemfontein.
“Babies in rural South Africa can die from an undiagnosed heart injury as everyone assumes they have breathing problems when they actually have critical congenital heart disease – of which up to ‘to 85% are curable. ”
Brown said the success of the project has increased the prospects for growth and expansion to other rural areas and provinces.
“We started a outreach program because some patients had difficulty getting to our central hospital. Since the Free State is considered rural, there are long distances to travel. Our concept was that we should bring the service to the local level to make it more convenient for parents and caregivers.
“We’ve partnered up with Macah, and since the early detection of CHD makes a big difference, it fits in perfectly with Macah’s first 1,000 days on the road.
Professor André Venter, President of the Macah Foundation, said one of central South Africa’s main commitments was its belief that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life determine their life trajectory.
“We must do everything in our power to make this 1,000-day journey optimal for every child, including conception, pregnancy, birth and health for the first two years of life,” a- he declared.
Brown said Tertia de Bruyn’s hard work has attracted partners such as Discovery. He also attributed the success to the expertise and dedication of Dr Daniel Buys of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at UFS and Rudolph Pretorius, echocardiography technician.
The diagnosis of heart damage is made by a mobile echocardiography machine which was donated by the Discovery Foundation through Macah. The machine looks like a laptop and can be carried in a carrying case.
“We see 170 to 250 patients per year. Since its launch in 2020, Pelonomi Hospital has seen an average of 40 children per month receive heart sonar. ”
The service is limited to secondary hospitals which include Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli Regional Hospital in Qwaqwa, Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom and Dihlabeng Regional Hospital in Bethlehem, as well as Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein.