Valvular heart diseases related to rheumatic fever is common in sub-Sahara Africa and especially Zambia, a country located in southern Africa. Because of the general lack of local cardiovascular expertise for advanced valvular interventions and treatment, many patients with advanced cardiac diseases are sent out of the country for further evaluation and treatment. A number of patients, however, cannot afford to pay their way abroad for life-saving treatments. Patients who cannot afford to travel are wait-listed on a government assistance program pending availability of funds. Unfortunately, many patients die while waiting for the availability of government funds. In other unfortunate circumstances, some patients find, after traveling abroad, that there is nothing more that can be done due to interval progression of the disease, after exhausting hard-earned life savings to travel abroad. Other patients who previously had life-saving treatments abroad sometimes have difficulties with subsequent follow-ups due to financial constraints.
In October 2019, Dr Scott Lim and Dr Sula Mazimba went to Zambia to help with teaching local providers how to perform mitral valueloplsties.
There are still a lot of patients waiting to be evaluated and treated for advanced cardiac disease in Zambia. A follow up surgical –intervention mission from UVA was scheduled for this year but is now canceled because of the COVID pandemic.
With the COVID -19 pandemic in Zambia, patients who were scheduled for evaluation and treatment abroad can no longer travel because of travel restrictions.
To help mitigate some of these problems of lack of cardiovascular care access in Zambia, we have assembled a group of cardiovascular experts from UVA (UVA-Dr’s Scott Lim, Mike Ragosta, Angela Taylor, Nishaki Mehta, George McDaniel, Gorav Alawadi and Ebony Hilton), University of Alabama at Birmingham and The Global Alliance of Zambian healthcare Professionals (GAZHP) so as to provide virtual second opinions and training to the Zambian local providers treating advanced valvular and cardiac diseases at Morningstar Clinic, a newly opened clinic in Lusaka, Zambia.
The telemedicine collaboration platform tool, VitalEngine, also in use in several major US hospitals for medical collaboration across providers.