Coro, 16th August 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Monday “Dr. Gilberto Rodríguez Ochoa”, Venezuela’s Caracas-based Children’s Cardiology Hospital, began celebrating its fifth anniversary since being inaugurated in August 2006. The pioneering cardiology hospital operates on patients from all over Latin America free of charge and has saved more than 5,500 children’s lives to date, according to government sources.
In celebration of its anniversary, officially on the 20th of August, hospital officials have planned a series of cultural activities throughout the week, with an art gallery on display as of today. The gallery features three expositions, including two from Fundarte, the government’s arts and culture foundation, and another from the hospital itself, including photos of the centre and drawings by some of the younger patients.
“This centre is truly a source of hope for my daughter and for all the children with few economic resources, because other clinics charge a lot of money, and that makes them inaccessible to us” stated Carolina Navarro, whose daughter was operated on at the centre just a few months after she was born.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also praised the hospital on his twitter account yesterday and wished the centre a happy anniversary.
“Bravo for our wonderful Infant Cardiology Hospital! Congratulations to everyone! Welcome all of our international guests” said the Venezuelan mandate.
As part of the week-long celebrations the hospital is hosting the International Conference on Congenital Heart Disease and is receiving cardiology experts from Spain, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, and Colombia to give talks throughout the week.
During yesterday’s ceremony, Venezuela’s Minister of Health, Eugenia Sader, highlighted that the hospital formed part of a wider national cardiology programme, including 19 other centres nationwide. The Minister also explained that there was no longer a waiting list in Venezuela for children suffering from heart defects.
“Now there are no waiting lists for children with congenital malformations. Contact is made with the network of the 19 regional cardiovascular centres and they are operated on” said Sader.
Built in 2006 as part of a Venezuelan government health initiative aimed at addressing the high rate of infant mortality due to untreated congenital heart defects, the hospital measures over 39 thousand square metres and boasts state of the art equipment and specialist doctors.
Prior to its construction, Venezuela had sent over 13,000 patients to the Caribbean island of Cuba for treatment as part of the Cuba–Venezuela Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement on Health. With the help of Cuba, Venezuela is now training thousands of national doctors and creating specialised medical centres in order to become self sufficient in national healthcare. Not only are operations at the centre free, but the hospital also finances travel costs for both national and international patients as well as one accompanying family member per patient.
The Director of the hospital, Isabel Iturria, confirmed that, whereas only 146 patients with congenital heart diseases were operated on in 1998, the hospital currently treats around 1,600 patients annually. The director also told Venezuela press that the centre had been organising a communal summer holiday project for its ex-patients.
“It’s a pleasure to see those children jumping and running around after having seen them on the hospital bed” said the director