Senait is a 37-year-old woman and mother of three. She has a heart condition that she has never been able to have treated. As a result, she becomes weak very easily.
In early July 2021 began the second phase of our ‘Emergency initiative in support of the cardiology clinic at Orotta Hospital in Eritrea’. Located in the capital of Asmara, this is the country’s main public hospital.
In cooperation with the local ministry of health, since October 2019 we have provided services at the cardiology clinic and at a second clinic set up for oral anticoagulant therapy.
The main aim of the project is to keep providing the cardiology support that EMERGENCY has so far to Eritreans who suffer from chronic heart conditions or have undergone heart operations.
Eritrea is one of the 33 countries from which we receive patients with heart conditions under our Regional Programme of cardiac surgery. After Ethiopia, it contributes the second highest number of patients to our Salam Centre. Between 2007, when the centre opened, and August 2021, no less than 199 Eritrean patients have been transferred to Sudan.
Covid-19 and heart screening missions in Eritrea
EMERGENCY regularly sends teams of its foreign workers out to the various countries in the network for the Regional Programme. There they carry out heart screening missions and choose new patients to transfer to Sudan.
Once they have been operated on, patients go back to their own countries, where they can count on free post-operative care and follow-ups to monitor their state of health.
The world health crisis unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to make changes to our calendar of screening missions in 2020.
‘With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the risk of infection, not to mention the restrictions and many government measures to stop the spread of the virus – above all the closing of the airports – we were forced to adapt our clinical work and reduce our screening missions and transfers to and from Sudan, for maximum prevention and to contain the risk of infection, to protect our staff and patients.’
Luca Rolla, Country Director in Sudan and Coordinator of EMERGENCY’s Regional Programme
A happy ending for four Eritreans trapped in Sudan by the pandemic
Before all flights were put on hold from October 2019 to February 2020, many cardiac patients from Eritrea were given free visas and the documents they needed for their transfer to Sudan, where they could be operated on at the Salam Centre.
Among their number were four young girls who, once the planes stopped, spent more than a year living in the guest house for patients from our Regional Programme, most of whom come from other African countries.
In May 2021, thanks to the efforts of the Eritrean authorities, who put on state-funded transport, the girls were able to get home safe.
‘Those girls understood right from the first how exceptional the events were that they were going through, events that had trapped them, unavoidably, in Sudan. Over the course of their first stay at the Salam Centre, where they were guests from March 2020 to May 2021, they were totally willing to work with us and take part in the life of the hospital. They were given training and joined the team of cleaners at the guest house, helping them keep the facility clean and comfortable at all times, for other patients like themselves.’
Gehan, Regional Programme Coordinator Assistant for EMERGENCY
February 2021: screening missions start again
In February 2021 heart screening missions started again at our cardiology clinic at Orotta Hospital. Our last mission was in August, when we went on with work at the clinic and provided anticoagulant therapy, which is very important for patients who have had a heart operation. We also identified, alongside our Eritrean staff, new patients to be referred to the Salam Centre for operations and did maintenance on the biomedical equipment at the clinic.
Training Eritrean Staff
The staff, who consist of a cardiologist, a doctor and three nurses, take care of receiving patients, doing cardiac check-ups, taking INR values for anticoagulant therapy, doing electrocardiograms, spotting vital signs, prescribing medicine and doing blood analyses, as well as answering the many questions patients have to ask and explaining to them why they need anticoagulant therapy, which is essential and in some cases life-saving treatment, and giving pre-operative information to patients who are going to be transferred to the Salam Centre.
‘Training is a fundamental part of our working process, because it lets us share and learn new skills and keep raising the standards of the treatment we offer. Getting treatment is a fundamental right for every person, and guaranteeing this right for the people in this community is the main aim of our work. Seeing the number of patients in the waiting room every week is a sign that we’re heading in the right direction.
Enok, doctor in charge of anticoagulant therapy at Orotta Hospital
Since the cardiology clinic opened, we have done 7655 cardiac check-ups and follow-ups there, and transferred 199 patients to the Salam Centre, who started anticoagulant therapy once they got back to Eritrea.
This project is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation