Posted by Megan Kraa, 12 November, 2020

While COVID-19 prevents Open Heart International volunteers from travelling to Tonga, advances in internet connectivity on the friendly islands is making remote support easier than ever before.

“Health system strengthening across the continuum of care of patients in Tonga experiencing congenital and acquired heart conditions” (abbreviated to HiTECH), funded by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

The original project plan was to deploy a small team of volunteers to Tonga in the second half of 2020, for cardiology reviews of patients and echo ultrasound training for the Tongan clinicians, and then a full surgical visit in April 2021.

Some of the wider consequences of the global pandemic that has curbed international travel even to locations with no identified COVID-19 cases like Tonga, is that treatment can be delayed or unavailable for other conditions such as heart disease.

While it will be at least six months before Open Heart International will be able to send clinical volunteers to Tonga again, patients’ conditions are still being monitored from afar. Open Heart International volunteers in Australia have been participating in remote case conferences where patients of concern are presented by Tongan clinicians.

The forum provides an excellent opportunity for the Tongan clinicians to receive support and treatment suggestions from clinical experts in Australia. The positive outcomes for the Tonga health system are two-fold – the clinician is furthering their own capacity to confidently treat patients, and the patient is benefiting from expertise outside the borders of their country.

Tags:  Cardiac, Tonga,