Cardiologist attacks 'colonial' patients

A top Dubai cardiologist has blasted the ‘colonialist’ attitude of patients opting to travel overseas to receive heart surgery.

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By  Joanne Bladd Published  June 12, 2006

A top Dubai cardiologist has blasted the ‘colonialist’ attitude of patients opting to travel overseas to receive heart surgery. Dr Girish Varma, chief cardiac surgeon at the NMC Speciality Hospital, has urged the government to stop funding treatment abroad, which he believes is misguided and unnecessary. In the wake of performing a rare type of triple heart bypass on a beating heart, thought to be the first of its kind in the region, he has called for action against the trend. “The treatment we offer here in the UAE is equal to, or even more sophisticated than that which a patient can receive in Europe or the US,” Dr Varma told Healthcare Middle East. “I feel that colonialism still exists here, where people feel a greater sense of security in western countries.” However, the lack of local patients has freed up the domestic cardiac sector and allowed it to excel, says Dr Varma. Additionally, all of the UAE’s cardiac surgeons have western training backgrounds and interact closely with their European and American counterparts. “Patients don’t appreciate that they could receive as good, if not better, treatment on their doorstep. Because we don’t deal in such high numbers, we can devote more time and attention to each patient, offering a more personal service,” he said. Underlining his claim, Dr Varma points to the recent triple bypass surgery he performed. Dr Varma used a composite conduit called Lima-Radial ‘Y’ on the patient’s beating heart. Instead of harvesting a vein from the patient’s leg, mammary arteries were used to provide lighter conduits. With a ‘Y’-shaped composite conduit, a total arterial re-vascularisation was performed on the beating heart, ruling out the use of a heart lung machine. “This is a long and highly technical operation and there are only a handful of surgeons globally who practice it,” said Dr Varma. “But in experienced hands the risks are zero and the re-operation rate is zero.” Lima-Radial ‘Y’ is performed in India, the US and some European countries, but this case is believed to be a UAE first. The patient recovered quickly, Dr Varma said, and was discharged from NMC Speciality Hospital seven days after admission. “Most surgeons prefer to operate on a still heart, but that carries complications associated with the use of a heart and lung machine,” said Dr Varma. “I think this recent case proves that patients should look at their options before travelling, because here we can do exactly the same job.” Dr Varma praised Dubai’s government for implementing strategies to improve the quality of the private healthcare sector. Now he is calling for more pressure to be put on patients to place their faith in those improved domestic facilities. “Funding people to go abroad for treatment must stop,” he stressed. “There should be a medical board in place, whose job it is to evaluate each case and decide whether it can be handled safely and professionally in this country. We need to instil in our patients a belief that here they can receive the same quality at home.” Curtailing the number of outward bound patients will spark a ‘massive shift’ in the industry, claims Dr Varma, together with a heightened emphasis on inbound medical tourism. “Once the government’s insurance policy becomes compulsory in a couple of years, there is going to be a major shift in Middle East healthcare, especially Dubai,” he declared. “Medical tourism will be promoted through the medium of Healthcare City and we will have all the facilities you could need under one roof.”

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