Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) have always been the number one cause of death in Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, in 2020, official statistics showed that mortality from CVDs increased by another 19%. Doctors associate the exacerbation of the problem with the coronavirus pandemic.
Having a cardiovascular disease, the doctors add, does not increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. However, if the contraction has already occurred, the risk of experiencing a more severe form of the disease is higher. The foremost problem in treating "heart patients" is the state of local medicine. Patients try to travel to the capital for medical exams and treatment, but it is expensive in terms of money and time, so not everyone can afford it.
For example, residents in Uzgen region, with a population of almost 300 thousand people, had no opportunity to undergo a quality cardiac diagnosis and get a consultation with a specialist locally until recently. There was a landmark event three years ago for local doctors and patients – the district was provided a modern cardiometer, which takes just a few minutes to give almost 100% complete readings for making a diagnosis. The equipment was provided through the UNDP project "Integrated Development of Osh province" funded by the Russian Federation.
"We place electrodes on the patient and the devices are connected to a tablet, which sends data in real time to the Central Server system at the Osh Interregional Hospital. A response with a diagnosis and other necessary information come back to the tablet of the doctor almost immediately. If there are rare cases and the necessity arises, the doctor connects the patient with a cardiac specialist at the Osh Interregional Hospital and shares the patient's medical history for review," – says Damir Niyazakun uulu, an intensive care specialist at the Centre for General Medical Practice (CGMP) in Uzgen.
This is how the local physicians share information with the region's leading specialists and the process reduces the risk of misdiagnosis and wrong treatment. Even more, the equipment helps detect cardiovascular disease at its early stages and ensure positive health outcomes.
"The cardiometer detects any changes in heart’s operation," adds Gulzada Nurzhanova, Deputy Director of the CGMP of Nursing. A handheld cardiometer in the form of a small portable suitcase can be used outside the hospital premises, which is convenient.
Already during the first twelve months of its use, specialists helped 34 patients to correct their lifestyles and receive medical care to prevent complications. Since then, several thousand people have been examined. For example, in May 2018, an elderly man came to them with complaints of pain in the heart area. A cardiologist in Uzgen received an online remote cardiogram consultation from a specialist in Osh. The patient was urgently admitted to the regional hospital, where he underwent stenting surgery. Very soon afterwards, the man recovered. The equipment certainly helps save the lives of many patients.
“Cardiovascular disease is “getting younger” due to socioeconomic factors and lifestyles of people. There are also genetic factors involved when diseases are inherited. Therefore, early detection is important, and this equipment is helpful for us," – says Damir Niyazakun uulu, an intensive care physician.
The hospital received a defibrillator along with the cardiometer. It is used in the most extreme cases when the heart has already stopped. It is the last hope for saving a person’s life. The patient is given a millisecond electric shock of up to 200 joules, which should make the heartbeat again.
"We have had several cases of saving people. However, prevention and timely treatment are certainly much more effective. Especially since the residents of Uzgen no longer need to travel to Osh or Bishkek to receive a high-quality diagnosis," – shares Niyazakun uulu.
Equipping regional hospitals with such simple and effective devices and tools is the most important task in the improving country's healthcare system. This method does not require enormous investments, yet it will help tremendously raise the level of population care.
In early 2018, with the financial support of the Russian Federation under the UNDP project "Integrated Development of Osh Province", 10 health organizations of Kara-Kulja, Uzgen and Nookat districts were provided sets of electrocardiography equipment with an automatic transcription function (ECG) and external defibrillators (IDA) for a total amount of 3.3 million KGS. Thus, for the past three years, doctors in remote and hard-to-reach villages have been using them for cardiac diagnostics and consultations for patients at their places of residence. Overall, the quality of healthcare services has been improved for 221,000 residents of Osh province.