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A twelve-member medical team from the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) is going to Suriname this month to operate on seven children with a congenital heart defect. These are children for whom heart surgery can solve the problem, or at least alleviate a lot.
In Suriname, (very) complex heart operations on children cannot always be performed. For this, patients often have to go to another country, such as the Netherlands.
Pediatric heart surgeon Ryan Accord is leading the medical mission. He tells RTV Noord that the idea arose through a chance meeting with pediatric cardiologist Amadu Juliana from Suriname. “Then we quickly discussed how we can help each other. Soon after the inquiry came if we could do this. It is now exactly three years ago.”
The plan immediately gained support from his UMCG colleagues, but was delayed due to the corona pandemic. It also required a lot of work to set up the project, says Accord.
“When you organize, you encounter obstacles, such as the economic situation in Suriname,” he says. “Things that we use here are quite expensive or impossible to get there. So you have to take things with you. Sometimes you have to simplify your own technique to achieve the same result without the luxuries and goods that we have here . For that we have to make a good script.”
In addition, UMCG staff had to be released, which was not easy in times of shortages and backlogs in health care. “Fortunately, there were many who were willing to take vacation days. It has made it easier to be away for ten days with a team of twelve people and to be able to provide this care,” says Accord.
The children are helped in their own environment. Their parents, brothers and sisters and their friends from class can come by after the operation. Those are benefits.
The children are operated on at the Academic Hospital in Paramaribo. It is a select group that is treated by the UMCG team. It is inevitable, Accord believes: “The selection is done in the fairest way. We choose the children who need it most, but who we also know can be done in a safe way.”
The mission is not cheap, but the return is high, says Accord. “For the money spent on one operation in the Netherlands, six or seven operations can be performed in Suriname. That does not include additional costs, such as getting the parents of a child to be operated in the Netherlands to come to the Netherlands.”
It is also better for the patients if they are operated on in Suriname. “The children are helped in their own environment. Their parents, brothers and sisters and their friends from class can come over after the operation. These are advantages,” says Accord. “It’s a tough period if your child has to have an operation. And if it has to be operated abroad, it’s an extra burden. You save those people by offering this care locally.”
The purpose of the mission is not limited to these seven operations. Transferring knowledge to his Surinamese colleagues is equally important, according to Accord. “It also helps that I know the culture and the differences with Holland. We don’t come there to do our trick of leaving after ten days. We involve them very strongly. We think it’s very important that their available staff participant.”
It will also be a learning experience for the UMCG team, Accord expects: “We are not used to sometimes running out of things or having no choice. They are extremely good at dealing creatively with the resources you have there. We learn from it.”
It is a fact that the healthcare system in Suriname is in bad financial shape, according to Accord. “It is precisely a motivation for us to help. Because the seven children that we are going to operate on should not be victims of this. They deserve to be helped and to have a normal future. So that motivation is due to the current development was only stronger.”