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CTSNet Live from Africa: Perspectives on COVID-19 from Sub-Saharan Cardiac Centers

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posted on 2020-05-11, 17:12 authored by Emily Farkas, Peter Zilla, Bode Falase, Alessandro Salvati, Juna Puntila, Mohamed Janabi

On Friday, May 8, 2020, CTSNet hosted a live event, CTSNet Live From Africa: Perspectives on COVID-19 from Sub-Saharan Cardiac Centers, to find out what our colleagues in Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and South Africa are seeing and doing as they brace for the impact of COVID-19. The recording will be made available Monday, May 11.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent countries with robust resources reeling, exposing many fragilities in national health care systems and global mechanisms for dealing with public health disasters. With Africa poised to be the next epicenter of the pandemic, the WHO has issued grim estimates of 5 ICU beds/1 million people on average across the African continent, compared to approximately 4000 ICU beds/1 million people in Europe. Cardiac Surgery centers in sub-Saharan Africa have the critical care capacity to manage the sickest patients and will be targeted to do so.

Moderator Emily Farkas, of ThedaCare Appleton Heart Institute, who has dedicated much of her professional career to cardiothoracic surgery mission work, is joined by a distinguished panel to discuss the situation in the following sub-Saharan countries:


South Africa has the highest number of recorded cases on the African continent.

Dr Peter Zilla has led the Christiaan Barnard Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery for 20 years and has helped to establish centers in Namibia and Zambia. The first human heart transplant took place in South Africa during 1967; now in 2020, Cape Town faces a new unprecedented challenge.


Lagos, Nigeria is the most populous city on the entire African continent.

Leading the CV program at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and as President of ACTSON, Dr Bode Falase has drawn upon his fellowships in healthcare informatics to assemble a respected and robust database of all in-country cardiac surgery, and, therefore, critical care capacity, in Nigeria.


The Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery has performed over 8,500 free-of-charge cardiac operations on patients from 25 different countries in Africa. In collaboration with the Sudanese government, it is primarily operated by the Italian Charity EMERGENCY INTERNATIONAL. Their satellite centers are a major conduit of care to the Darfur region of Western Sudan, where, along with Eastern Chad, an estimated 350,000 people live in refugee camps; implications for disease transmission here represent an existential threat.

Dr Alessandro Salvati is an Italian cardiac surgeon and longtime Medical Director of the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery; Dr Juha Puntila is a Finnish cardiac surgeon who leads the organization’s congenital program.


Tanzania has attracted international media attention as the world’s only government to endorse attendance at religious services as a method of combatting the pandemic. Regardless of whether this is accurate, it highlights the significance of contextualization in COVID-19 mitigation strategies globally.

Dr Mohamed Janabi has an excellent vantage point on ways to deliver the right message and care as Executive Director of the largest cardiac center in the region, and through his experience as the personal physician of the former president of Tanzania.


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