Caracas, Venezuela, August 22, 2006—The “Dr. Gilberto Rodríguez Ochoa” Latin American Cardiological Children’s Hospital was inaugurated in the Montalbán neighborhood of Caracas this Sunday, during Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ weekly television show, Aló Presidente. Chavez says that the hospital is the largest of its kind in the world, where they will have the capacity to carry out 4,500 operations annually, and hope to save 1,000 lives per year.
According to las Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela has invested $107 million dollars in the infrastructure and $21.3 million in equipment for the 155,000 square meter facility. The Ministry of Communication reported that the facility will include a total of 142 beds, 33 intensive care beds, 4 surgery rooms, 30 consultation rooms and 82 rooms in the hospital residence.
According to the Venezuelan Ministry of Communications, eight out of every thousand newborns suffer from congenital cardiopathy, which is the second highest cause of infant mortality. In Venezuela 4,445 children are born annually with this problem and 70% require help. Approximately 2,750 Venezuelan children die annually as a result of the disease. Venezuela hopes that with this new hospital, they may be able to save 1,000 lives per year.
“Within three years we will be carrying out 4,800 interventions in the hospital, 2,000 for hemodinamy and 2,800 for surgery,” said doctor Isabel Iturria, President of the Dr. Gilberto Rodríguez Ochoa Latin American Cardiological Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The new hospital will attend to newborns through adolescents and adults with congenital cardiopathy, who never had the opportunity to be operated on.
According to Jhonny Ramos, the director of the Cuba–Venezuela Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement on Health, which has sent over 13,000 Venezuelan patients to be cured in Cuba over the last five and a half years, the idea for the hospital has been in the planning stages since 2001.
“This was an idea that came out of [the agreement],” said Ramos. Since signing the agreement in 2000, Venezuela has been attempting to slowly set up specialized medical facilities in Venezuela, so that patients can be treated in-country and would not have to travel to the Caribbean island.
The Health Minister announced that the Cardiological hospital will be connected to the network of clinics and hospitals across Venezuela, including Barrio Adentro clinics, where patients will be referred to a Comprehensive Diagnostic Health Center and, once verified, on to the Cardiological hospital.
“The Cardiological [hospital] should be the epicenter of a great social communal organization,” said Chavez.
According to El Universal, it was announced that the hospital will additionally function as a school, where hundreds of undergraduate and graduate college students will receive training towards a variety of medical degrees and licenses.
Southern Hospital Network
On Sunday, President Chavez also called for the creation of a southern hospital network, in order to care for the necessities of the Latin American countries, especially Argentina, Brasil, Colombia, and Cuba.
“This is just an idea that I’m throwing out there, and I am sure that there are infinite doctors, public and also private hospitals that will be interested in it,” he said.
Cardiological attention began in Venezuela 81 years ago with Venezuelan doctor, Heberto Cuenca Carruyo, from the state of Zulia. The Venezuelan Association of Cardiology was founded in 1954.
The children’s cardiological hospital is named for Dr. Gilberto Rodríguez Ochoa, a Venezuelan doctor, writer, and social activist, who Chavez said on Sunday, will “continue to always be an example for all of us.” Relatives of the doctor attended the inauguration of the hospital.