2 Jul 2012

Tonga heart programme provides bang for buck

6:39 am on 2 July 2012

The head of an Australian outreach surgical service says 28 Tongans benefitted from cost effective heart operations last year in Nuku'alofa's Vaiola hospital.

Health Manager, Michael Were says Operation Open Heart began in 1986 after an intensive care nurse from Sydney Adventist Hospital visited Tonga and noticed a fundamental lack of cardiac treatment.

He says Tonga has a world class and comprehensive screening process for heart disease but with a population of only 100,000 people it can't sustain a full time cardiac surgeon.

Michael Were says a team of up to forty volunteers with surgical skills visit Tonga every two years for a fortnight.

"From a bang for buck point of view the cost of providing surgery in the country versus sending a patient to Australia or New Zealand is significantly less. We can provide surgery on average for about three and a half thousand Australian dollars per case. That's significantly less than bringing someone to Australia, its possibly going to cost you somewhere between 40 and 70 thousand Australian dollars we believe."

Michael Were says an Operation Open Heart team is due to visit Papua New Guinea during the first two weeks of August.