By William M Novick, M.D.
Memphis, 13 July 2021:
Novick Cardiac Alliance completed its second trip to Libya this year, again to Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC). The total number of children operated on in these two trips is 117 – of which 70 were on our 6-week trip in February and March and 47 were on the recently completed trip of June. The mortality rate on these 2 trips combined was 1.7% (2 out of 117). This may sound wonderful, but the reality is that the June trip to BMC appears to be our last of the year to that institution. Why?
We were in Benghazi when the Cabinet of the new government was approved by Parliament (House of Representatives) and had the opportunity to meet with the new Minister of Health, Dr. Ali Zenati just two days after he assumed the position. Dra. Naema Goobha, former Minister of Health Dr. Reida El Oakley, and I met Minister Zenati in Benghazi and presented him with a proposal to operate on 500 children per year at BMC and train the local team as well. Minister Zenati agreed to fund the proposal when a budget was passed. All of us realized that the passing of a budget might require some significant time as Ramadan was coming up soon. As a result, we were able to secure funding for the trip we just completed through a private company in Libya. During the interim following Ramadan and Eid, no progress was made in Parliament in passing a budget and as we departed for the June trip, we all realized this might be our last trip this year.
2,000 children already on waiting list
There are 2,000 or more children on the waiting list for surgery in Libya and another 500 children born annually with heart disease that will require surgical or cath lab interventions. Only in Tripoli can a child receive heart surgery, and most are provided this opportunity in a private institution, where the parents must pay for surgery and care at expensive prices. Children are dying of heart disease every single day in Libya and there is little hope that this cycle will be interrupted soon if a budget is not passed soon.
We have been told that the government wants to solve this problem, the Director of BMC, the Minister of Health, and perhaps even the Prime Minister all are knowledgeable of the problem and the potential solution, but they are all handicapped because no budget has been passed.
Our effort to return to BMC on July 25 – August 21 with private company sponsorship was cancelled at the last moment, we are not sure by whom or why. So, our last option for helping the children of the country with heart disease this year disappeared in 1 day.
We have been helping in Libya since 2012, we have been in Benghazi when the fighting broke out in 2014 and Tripoli when fighting broke out in 2019. Our programmes have been interrupted by war and political infighting and yet we have persisted in helping the children of Libya with heart disease.
I fear that the day may have passed when we will again be able to save the children of Libya with heart disease. I hope I am wrong, inshallah.
William M Novick, M.D.
Medical Director, CEO and Founder
William Novick Global Cardiac Alliance
Professor of Surgery and International Child Health
University of Tennessee Health Science Center-Global Surgery Institute