Timely intervention saves scores of heart patients in Fiji

Venkat Raman

M K M is about 45 years old. Two months ago, he suffered a minor heart attack.

At Heart International in Nadi (located at 12 Commercial Street), he underwent Echocardiogram and stress test which suggested at least two blockages in his heart.

M K M wanted “angiogram with one stent” or “slightly cheaper stents if available.”

In his best interest, Dr Seif E-Jack and his team at the Clinic politely advised against inferior treatment. He was treated with tablets.

Two months later, he returned, having secured funding for the procedure.

He received three stents at a fraction of the cost of the same treatment in New Zealand.

No compromises

R K P had multiple narrowing of heart and has been diabetic for some time.

The best treatment in his case was open-heart surgery which is not available in Fiji.

He was insistent on having “one or two stents instead” since he could not afford overseas travel.

Heart International specialists advised him against ‘short-cut operation’ and are currently treating him with medication until he is able to secure funds for open-heart surgery overseas.

There are thousands of people- men and women, boys and girls – in Fiji with a heart condition. But their financial condition is so poor that they cannot even dream of traveling to New Zealand where an angiogram and angioplasty procedure with a single stent can cost up to NZ$35,000.

Yet they cannot and should not be allowed to die.

Hearty doctors

There are kind-hearted cardiologists, surgeons and specialists in New Zealand who travel once or twice a year to perform pro bono medical work but there is a need for well-trained medical practitioners and well-equipped hospitals and clinics in Fiji.

Heart International fulfils that need to an extent with Auckland-based Dr El-Jack, an experienced Interventional Cardiologist and his team at Heart International in Auckland’s Greenlane. A few months ago, they established a similar but smaller facility in Nadi.

Dr El-Jack travels to Fiji every Friday evening, conducts angiogram and angioplasty procedures on weekends and returns to Auckland on Sunday.

“A normal angioplasty requiring one stent would cost F$ 12,000 (about NZ$ 8100). We have capped the cost of multiple stents to a total of F$ 15,000 (about NZ$ 10,100),” he said.

Quality Care

Dr El-Jack said that the focus at his Clinic is delivery of single-tier quality care, equivalent to what patients receive at a private hospital in New Zealand.

“There cannot be Budget packages in Healthcare. At Heart International, we offer full medical alternatives, not cheaper procedures using inferior products. Every patient is on priority at our Clinic and care and service delivery are paramount,” he said.

Lucky young man

Dr El-Jack cited the example of L M T, a young (about 35 years old) man who suffered heart attack at a local hospital. Visiting Heart International, he told the staff that he would sort out the finances in a couple of weeks.

He was treated in less than 24 hours – a blocked vessel from the previous heart attack, and two other vessels critically narrowed.

“L M T received three stents. This is one of the few times when stents not only improve symptoms but literally save lives. Another heart attack which was eminent in his case would have been fatal. This patient settled his financials within four weeks of his treatment and was very appreciative. We were very pleased with his clinical outcome. Money is not everything,” Dr El-Jack said.

Finance Ok but flight risk

Financial affordability is not the only factor that determines the ability to go overseas.

There are patients whose medical condition would make them a ‘flight risk.’

Heart International in Nadi recently treated a 50-year-old woman, who was in pain, having suffered heart attack.

She was fully insured and hence finance was not an issue.

She could not travel overseas. Her complex medical condition was worrying.

She received stents for very critical narrowing and went home the same day.

“The service that Heart International provides in Fiji is aimed at enhancing healthcare for people with not many choices. Some of them do not have the financial means, some are not insured or perhaps not insurable and cannot travel abroad. All these factors, rather risks, are addressed at our Clinic in Nadi. International expertise is now available in Fiji. We will continue to serve the people of Fiji, simultaneously training local practitioners so that someday Fiji has its own medical expertise for patients with a heart condition,” Dr El-Jack said.


Photo Caption:

  1. Dr Seif El-Jack (Picture Supplied)
  2. Dr Seif El-Jack explains procedures to a group of Fijians at Heart International Fiji
  3. State-of-the-art equipment at Heart International Fiji

(Pictures from www.heartinternational.co.nz)


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