Report on meeting related to technical support to the Directorate, Department of Health - 14th May 2018

28 May 2018 - 07:45
From from left: John Anthony, Pamela Naidoo, Liesl Zühlke, Karen Sliwa, Pricilla Reddy, Itumeleng Setlhare and Sadiyha Singh

On Monday 14th May members of the Department of Health met with experts in non-communicable diseases at the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town. 

Sandhya Singh, Itumeleng Setlhare and Priscilla Reddy from the Department of Health (DOH), Pretoria, met with Prof Karen Sliwa (Senior Cardiologist, Groote Schuur Hospital, Director Hatter Institute and President Elect of the World Heart Federation), Prof Pamela Naidoo (CEO Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa), Prof Liesl Zühlke (President of SA Heart Association and representative of Rheach), Prof. John Anthony (Head, Obstetric and Maternal Health, Groote Schuur Hospital) and Prof Peter Zilla (Head, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Groote Schuur Hospital). The meeting was scheduled by the members of the DOH to offer technical support to the Directorate and in preparation to establish an Expert Working Group/s on Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Stroke in the s quarter of 2018. The meeting commenced with general introductions and background information on the attendees portfolios.

K Sliwa and J Anthony highlighted the need to implement dedicated cardiac disease in maternity clinics, run jointly by cardiologists and obstetricians, at all tertiary hospitals. These clinical hubs would be responsible for the appropriate referrals of women with suspected cardiac disease in pregnancy to tertiary care, and to assist within an appropriate post-partum management. It was suggested that such services should be one of the priority areas for the DOH as maternal mortality due to indirect causes, such as CVDs, is still very high in South Africa and is likely to become an even larger contributor over the next decade. It was agreed that CVD management and control during pregnancy should be integrated into the strategy on High Risk Pregnancies.

This was followed by an intense discussion on the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) contributing to untimely death in young adults in South Africa. K Sliwa and L Zühlke informed the members of the DOH that there is a global shortage of penicillin, the drug needed for primary and secondary prophylaxis.  Only 4 companies globally produce penicillin, with 3 of them located in China. The profit margin is small for this essential medication, thus leading to the poor supply.

Prof Zilla contributed to the discussion by highlighting the low number of cardiothoracic surgeries performed for patients with rheumatic and congenital heart disease in South Africa. He also provided background on the low-cost valve he and his team has developed at the University of Cape Town, which will go into human studies in 2018.

Prof Liesl Zühlke commented on the need to develop and integrate Congenital Heart Disease in the proposed child non- communicable disease strategy.

Prof  P Naidoo summarized aspects of the work performed by the Heart & Stroke Foundation on non-communicable disease.

The meeting ended with clear goals and overall agreement that the meeting was productive and should be repeated soon.