Homegrown workforce the key to better heart health in Fiji

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A locally sourced heart health workforce in Fiji is the key to improving the health of the island nation, which has one of the worst cardiac health profiles in the world, according to Gold Coast cardiologist Vijay Kapadia.

The Gold Coast Private Hospital doctor has spent almost two decades fundraising, volunteering and securing equipment to build facilities in Fiji, but says sustainable health care will require a local workforce.

“As doctors, nurses and medical teachers we can make a huge difference to places like Fiji,” Dr Kapadia said.

“My goal is to ensure that long after I am gone there are the trained medical personnel and the facilities to provide the necessary treatment to the people of Fiji and the Pacific Islands.”

His mission was spurred by a Sydney Adventist Hospital’s Operation Open Heart team, trip to assess patients with rheumatic heart disease.  He felt, however, that what Fiji badly needed was a locally based and run tertiary cardiac facility.

“I found it totally unacceptable that a population of just under one million people had no cardiac health care facilities,” he said. He took it upon himself to set this up.

Dr Kapadia called in favours, found second-hand equipment and headed an army of volunteers, including some of the world’s top cardiologists, to develop a cardiac care service in Fiji that is literally life saving.

He and other physicians from Australia and New Zealand volunteer their time, visiting Fiji to help train local medics on how to use the equipment provided and provide treatment to patients.

Dr Kapadia and his colleagues have made a real difference in Fiji helping establish a catheterisation laboratory in Suva which is treating locals with heart conditions on a daily basis. Despite this, the hearth health of the country’s population remains dire and treatments taken for granted in the Australian health system, such as stents, pacemakers and treatments like angiograms and angioplasty, were not available in Fiji.

But he said, while they are making a difference, the real answer was in training Fijian doctors and nurses in cardiac care, diagnosis and treatment and then providing them with the necessary facilities.

“We need to get to the stage where Fiji is less reliant of the kindness of volunteers and we have a vision to see a fully operational cardiac centre there with Fijian doctors and nurses trained and skilled to be able to run it and provide the care their people need,” he said.

To find out how you can donate or volunteer to Fiji Heart, please contact Vijay Kapadia on 0414 541 130.

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