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Posted By Lily Hsu, Project HOPE’s Senior Technical Advisor, China Region; Program Director Shanghai Office on October 17, 2013

Labels: China , Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Systems Strengthening

On September 16, I traveled with Shanghai Children’s Medical Center’s Chief of Pediatric Surgery, Dr. Zhang HaiBo , and Senior Intensive Care Cardiologist, Dr. Li ZhiHao, to Dhaka, Bangladesh.  We were in Dhaka for a three-day assessment at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (NICVD) and to prepare children with congenital heart diseases for surgery scheduled for October 25-30.

Project HOPE Team Meets with Leadership from the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Dhaka, Bangladesh

The visit to NICVD started with a warm and delicious Bangladeshi red tea and cookies at the office of the Director, Dr. Abdullah A.S. Majumder.  Dr. Majumder welcomed us and shared his concerns and his desire to further develop NICVD’s capacity for pediatric cardiac surgery.

The subsequent hospital tour made me understand the pressure the Bangladeshi health providers are under to provide better health care and the immense potential for improvement. Incoming patients at NICVD are packed in with patients currently receiving care. Fortunately there are beds free of charge for incoming patients, where they can stay while waiting for admission.  This is made possible with government subsidies for daily meals and bed costs.

The Operating Theater at NICVD has six operating rooms and two additional rooms currently under renovation. There are nine cardiac surgery teams including two for pediatric cardiac surgery.  Due to insufficient operating rooms, the surgeons have to rotate their operating days, and the pediatric cardiac surgery can only be performed one day per week.  Therefore children with congenital heart diseases have to wait for surgery. Unfortunately, given their poor health, vulnerability to infection and malnutrition status, many of these children probably cannot wait long for surgery. What is astonishing is that there is no health insurance system in Bangladesh for adults or children.  The lack of insurance in Bangladesh makes health care accessibility and affordability very challenging.

Dr. HaiBo Zhang of Shanghai Children's Medical Center with Pediatric Surgeons from National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Dhaka, Bangladesh

While our team was at NICVD, Dr. Zhang was asked to perform surgery on two children with congenital heart diseases.  His skillful surgical techniques and the safe outcomes of the procedures earned many praises from the staff working with him during the operations.  The two children both recovered smoothly, and we were happy to see the knowledge and experience exchange between the Project HOPE-trained Chinese cardiac surgeon and the diligent Bangladeshi surgeons from NICVD. 

Dr. Zhang told us how 30 years ago Project HOPE sent Dr. Richard Jonas, the Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital at the time, to Shanghai to train a group of pediatric surgeons.  Today, Dr. Zhang is delighted to share that knowledge with his colleagues at NICVD-Bangladesh.  Project HOPE’s mission to improve care for children with congenital heart disease continues - in Bangladesh.

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