100 hearts for 100 children

100 hearts for 100 children This EU-funded award-winning project helps children born with heart defects.

Today we'll be talking about a successful project that received a prize at the 2017 Structural Funds Awards Gala. The project is called 100 Hearts for 100 Children and obtained the 2nd place in a special category for projects that support professional training. Thanks to this project, a new medical specialisation is now available for resident doctors in Romania since 2016, namely paediatric cardiology. Not to mention that the project is also saving lives. Cristian Grassu is a secretary of state within the Health Ministry and he told us about the cooperation between the Romanian state institutions and the European ones in implementing projects in the healthcare field:


"Important efforts are being made, we have looked for help and funding in many places, and the European Commission has always been there to help, especially in this mandate. This project is proof that a lot can also be done in Romania with the help of European funds and this is not the only example. Some projects have received more funds, others less, some even rely on volunteers, but all of them have the same goal, namely to save more lives and to cure more patients. At present, Romania's priority is the infrastructure, and this is one of the main reasons why we are not yet satisfied with the quality of health services or, for that matter, with the quantity of services we receive. We do have an infrastructure problem: the last public hospital to be built in Romania was in 1981 and the only medical building with a medical purpose to be built in the meantime has been in Iasi. All the other hospitals were built in the 1970s and even earlier, some are even historical monuments."


Physician and journalist Vlad Mixich has identified one of the paradoxes facing Romania:


"Congenital heart defects are one of the causes of infant mortality. Infant mortality comes up in the Romanian media at least once a year, whenever there's some new statistics or article showing how bad things are in the Romanian healthcare system. And this is where the paradox lies. Indeed, Romania has the highest infant mortality rate in the European Union, but at the same time, the effort to reduce infant mortality that began in 1990 has been one of the most successful endeavours in Romanian medicine. Romania has seen the fastest dropping rate of infant mortality in the world. The drop was very fast in a very short time. Although we are still in the last place in the classification, things are improving much faster than in other countries faced with this problem."


The situation has improved also thanks to the project 100 Hearts for 100 Children. The manager of the Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Iasi, Professor Grigore Tinica has explained that the Institute agreed to participate in this European project if a number of children were also to benefit from surgery. The project provided specialist training programmes abroad for all categories of medical staff working in the sensitive domain of paediatric cardiovascular surgery. The initial target was 100 surgeries but this figure has been exceeded by now. Professor Tinica explains:


"Between 1,500-2,000 children with congenital heart defects are born in Romania every year. 800 or 900 need surgery in the first year of life, but only 250 or 300 surgeries are performed at the moment. So, many of them don't get the surgery they need, and they grow up, turn 10, 12, 15 or even become adults and still haven't undergone the procedure. That's about 1,000 cases of congenital heart defects that need operation in Romania. There are several hospitals that perform this type of surgery. Paediatric cardiovascular surgery is much more difficult than the other type of surgery because a young child is a completely different universe."


While the ministry can draw up policies, access funds and try to change mentalities, it's the people in the front line, the doctors, the nurses, the therapists and the kinetotherapists, who are implementing the projects. They are sometimes joined by civil society representatives. The "Inima Copiilor" Association is one such example. The association supports children with medical problems, especially children with heart conditions. Alexandru Popa, the association's president, has explained:


"We have decided to support heart surgery because in 2006, when the association was set up, congenital heart disease was the main cause of non-accidental child mortality. Things have changed somehow, but not completely, and there are still very many children who die of heart disease because they are not diagnosed in time, because they are not operated on and because their parents don't know where to take them. We hope this situation will change. We've tried to help develop these centres instead of focusing on individual cases, even if we're always being asked for help and it's difficult to say no. Our association has raised over 4 million euros from sponsorships and private donations, funds which have went to infrastructure projects and have been injected into the public healthcare system. We want to continue."


This project is definitely a success, given that surgery is currently performed on children as young as two weeks, but there is much more that needs to be done, as all our interlocutors have emphasised.



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Publicat: 2018-04-18 13:23:00
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