Lack of local cardiologists forces NGO to fly in doctors

Maldivian infants with suspected congenital heart defects (CHD) are being flown to India for corrective surgery because of the lack of a pediatric cardiologist at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

In one Indian hospital alone, over a two year period 40 Maldivian babies have undergone surgery for CHD claimed Maldives NGO ‘Tiny Hearts Maldives’, which is advocating early screening within the country.

Heart defects are a leading cause of infant mortality, obstructing or constricting blood flow in the heart and blood vessels or affecting the heart’s rhythm.

Early detection is possible through an echocardiogram however while IGMH owns an echocardiogram machine, the lack of a trained cardiologist has left it unused.

In response, THM is bringing two cardiologists to the Maldives from India who will be running a three day screening camp for pregnant women from 9-11 February.

While the camp is being held to screen unborn babies for congenital heart defects, particularly women who are between 18-24 weeks pregnant, “there is also the possibility for adults with heart conditions to come along and have a check up,” said Fathmath Hishmath Faiz, one of THM’s founding members.

On the first two days of the camp the doctors will be screening around 15 women a day each. The final day involves an awareness program on CHD.

THM have held a previous screening camp on 12 September 2009.

Hishmath said “We screened 12 babies during our first camp, but it was not as many as we would have liked because they were the only the cases we already knew about.

“The main focus of this camp is to find more cases of CHD,” she said, but added that it was also important “to create more awareness about this condition.”

Tiny Hearts

THM was officially launched on 23 September 2009, as an NGO to promote awareness about CHD.

According to, CHD is one of the most common forms of birth defects and is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.

THM has a 24-hour hotline (7745173) for any inquiries regarding CHD.