ICHF reacts to news of surgical training agreement in Iraq

Monday July 18, 2011 07:10:18 AM


International Children’s Heart Foundation reacts to news of surgical training agreement in Iraq

International Children’s Heart Foundation (ICHF), a non-profit organization headquartered in the United States and dedicated to providing lifesaving surgical care to children with congenital heart disease throughout the developing world, reacted today to news of the recently signed agreement between the Ibn Al-Bitar Specialized Center for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad and the Hotel-Dieu De France Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.  The agreement, signed one week ago, states that the staff of Ibn Al-Bitar will receive training from the charity Heartbeat and international NGO Chain of Hope to improve the skills needed to perform heart surgeries on infants.  The extensive training means that it will be three years before doctors can operate on Iraqi children. Since 2010, ICHF has been training, educating and performing complex children's heart surgeries at Nasiriyah Heart Center and is developing another program with the Iraqi Ministry of Health to continue there long term.

"The International Children's Heart Foundation works in many countries around the globe with one mission, to help the most critically sick children no matter of race or religion and we do this because it is our passion and for no other reason", said Alberto Mazan, ICHF’s CEO.  “The goal of our educational program is to empower the local medical professionals to be self sustaining after completion of our curriculum.  Our agreement with the Iraqi Ministry of Health means that the children of Iraq will have consistent heart healthcare at Nasiriyah Heart Center for at least a year while the Baghdad staff at Ibn Al-Bitarare properly trained over the next three years.”

ICHF will complete the first year of the existing program sponsored by the Ministry of Health with a trip in November. Together with the Administration of the Nasiriyah Heart Center and the Regional Health Care Directorate of Nasiriyah, the ICHF is currently in the process of forming a new program with the Iraqi Ministry of Health.  This program would enable ICHF and their in-country coalition with Living Light International and Preemptive Love to continue to operate and train medical staff in Iraq by having round-the-clock pediatric cardiac care for a full year at the Nasiriyah Heart Center.  If the program is approved, it will begin early 2012.  

Dr. William Novick, ICHF’s founder and medical director, has already been nominated to the Steering Committee of the new Nasiriyah Heart Center, which is under construction and should be completed by years end.  The hospital is one of the newest in Iraq and has three floors, four operating rooms, 15 ICU beds and 90 patient ward beds.  “When completed, the Nasiriyah Heart Center will give Iraq two premier centers in which children can receive appropriate heart care”, said Novick.  Also under construction, Ibn Al-Bitar is being rebuilt because of severe damage during Desert Storm and will be finished in 2012.              

ICHF has performed 106 heart surgeries in Nasiriyah and Sulimaniya since they began coming to Iraq. Surgeries of note include the first arterial switch ever performed in Iraq and successfully operating on an infant that was told by multiple doctors throughout Iraq that there was no hope for survival.  That baby was recently sent home from the hospital after surgery by ICHF staff and volunteers and is now thriving. “ The Nasiriyah team is learning about the care of newborns and infants with complex heart problems now, and if the plan that is currently before the Ministry of Health is approved we can accelerate this unique learning process while caring for children with complex heart disease at the same time”, said Novick.