Paediatric Cardiologist Dr Cornelia Kilalang accepted the invitation to review children with suspected heart problems and other sicknesses earlier this month. Her trip was made possible by the Oil Search Foundation (OSF), working closely with the Hela Provincial Health Authority (HPHA) and other partners.
HPHA CEO, Dr Gunzee Gawin, thanked Port Moresby General Hospital for releasing Dr Kilalang saying: “Such visits are very important to health facilities in the outer provinces. Many provincial health facilities don’t have the benefit of specialist doctors such as Dr Kilalang and the cost for families trying to access specialist care in the city often stops a lot of people from doing so.”
Dr Kilalang spent two days at the hospital, screening and reviewing children for various sicknesses. Out of 22 children screened for suspected heart diseases, six had slight problems with their hearts which might require corrective heart surgery or other forms of treatment. Of these six, only one child, five-year-old Lethisa, qualified for open heart surgery at the Port Moresby General Hospital later this year.
“It’s heart-warming to see the difference our partnerships can make in the lives of children in the rural areas,” said OSF CEO Kymberley Kepore. “This one visit has resulted in corrective action and treatment being recommended for many children who would never have had the opportunity.”
Dr Kilalang also worked with hospital doctors on teaching ward rounds, during which she helped hospital staff resuscitate a 16-month-old infant suffering from severe dehydration following days of diarrhoea.
OSF public health medical officer, Dr Vincent Pyakalyia, said heart disease in children is quite often ‘congenital’ (where the heart is not formed properly due to an abnormality) and even in the best of settings in PNG, largely misdiagnosed for pneumonia.
“Childhood pneumonia is a common cause of hospital admission and death in children in the Highlands, including Hela Province. This can mask and worsens the likelihood of heart diseases in children who have a pre-existing condition.”
Paediatric cardiology is an area of medicine concerned with diseases of the heart in the growing and developing child and paediatric cardiologists like Dr Kilalang are doctors who diagnose and treat children with cardiac (heart) conditions.
At the end of her visit, Dr Kilalang submitted important observations and recommendations for consideration by the Hela Provincial Hospital management.
(Dr Kilalang examining a child for possible heart ailments as the mother looks on)