GEORGE TOWN, Dec 7 — The Health Ministry, in collaboration with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and the team of doctors from Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital (SSSSH), today launched a Miracle Baby Programme to provide heart surgeries for children outside of the Klang Valley.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said children born with congenital heart conditions that require surgical corrections often have to wait a long period for surgeries, especially those outside of Klang Valley.
“Currently, the waiting time for surgery in Penang Hospital, the regional cardiothoracic centre in the northern Peninsular, is about 10 months, with many patients being referred to the Klang Valley and elsewhere,” he said in a pre-recorded speech at the launch of the programme in Penang Hospital here today.
He said there are about 5,000 babies born with congenital heart conditions in Malaysia currently.
“Unfortunately, facilities available in the country for the timely treatment of these unfortunate children were limited to the Klang Valley, one of which is the National Heart Institute (IJN),” he said.
He said the current capacity of facilities can only accommodate 2,500 patients to be treated yearly while the remaining patients have to seek treatment elsewhere or wait for a long period to under surgery.
He said the health ministry had prioritised this by taking numerous steps to address the issue which included patients being sent to India for treatment in cross-border collaboration with hospitals there.
“We were also training surgeons and paramedic officers to be fully competent in giving this aspect of highly specialised cardiothoracic surgical care,” he said.
Recognising the need for congenital heart surgical services outside of the Klang Valley, the Miracle Baby Programme in Penang Hospital was mooted.
“This Miracle Baby Programme is a brilliant, out-of-the-box initiative, initially mooted way back in 2016, leading to a site visit in 2020, and eventually resulting in collaboration of our dedicated cardiothoracic surgeons in the ministry with UTAR and the team of doctors from SSSSH, the centre renowned for great congenital heart surgery work,” he said.
He said the programme will involve a visit by the surgical and anaesthetists team from the SSSSH and they will work with the ministry's cardiothoracic surgical team in Penang Hospital to perform more than 20 congenital heart surgeries for needy children over a period of two weeks.
He said the programme will also involve training, sharing of knowledge and education for all levels of staff in the Penang Hospital team.
“As a principal healthcare provider in Malaysia, the ministry is proud to support and spearhead activities with the aim to bring congenital cardiac surgery closer to the rakyat, with the great potential to improve our services despite various limitations and challenges,” he said.
Due to the success of the programme, he said the ministry will facilitate further cooperation with medical teams from India and UTAR.
The pilot Miracle Baby Programme started on November 28 and as of today, 12 patients have benefited from the programme, including three from Sabah.