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President pledges coverage for congenital heart defects

The pledge was made at a ceremony held to mark the 10th anniversary of NGO Tiny Hearts.



The government is working to provide health insurance coverage for congenital heart defects, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said at a ceremony held on Monday night to mark the 10th anniversary of NGO Tiny Hearts of Maldives.

In his remarks, President Solih acknowledged the financial burden borne by parents of babies born with congenital heart defects and expressed regret over the lack of coverage offered by the Aasandha national health insurance scheme.

The current administration is trying to reform and strengthen the scheme, he said.

“God willing, when the work is complete, I hope that the treatment for children with congenital heart defects and the support these families need will be covered. We will be asking for advice and recommendations from Tiny Hearts,” he said.

The local NGO was formed 10 years ago to raise awareness and support children with health issues and congenital heart conditions. Tiny Hearts was established by Ali Muaz and Fathimath Hishmath Faiz in memory of their firstborn son, who was born with a congenital heart condition that led to his death at two and a half months.

At the anniversary function, Tiny Hearts released the findings of an independent survey about congenital heart defects in the Maldives. Some 558 of 581 patients registered with the NGO were interviewed for the survey.

According to the results, septal defects accounted for 53 percent of heart conditions, followed by malformation of major arteries and veins at 21 percent. Some 10 percent of the patients had chamber defects and seven percent had valve defects.

More than 40 percent of patients had at least one surgery.

The cost of travelling overseas was a huge burden on families, Mohamed Nimal, Tiny Heart’s executive manager told the Maldives Independent.

“Right now, treatment options are not available in the country and while Aasandha covers the treatment costs, covering the associated costs related to travelling abroad are a big challenge to families,” he said.

Of 4,820 births during 2016 and 2017, 514 babies were born with defects, including 42 serious cases and 21 fatalities, according to statistics from the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

The most common defect was congenital heart disease with 102 cases in 2016 and 2017.