Pediatric Cardiovascular Program at Cedimat Hospital

In the Dominican Republic, the need for better and more accessible children’s health care is significantly greater than most neighboring developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, congenital health anomalies in the country are twice the average rate of the region, and they are the second most common cause of death behind premature births for those under five years old. Despite recent improvements, the Dominican Republic still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the region, according to the CIA. Against this challenging backdrop, our program represents a critical source of care and a model for increasing health care access for the country’s most vulnerable population.

To respond to this urgent need, DOCF has partnered with CEDIMAT to make it the only high-quality pediatric cardiac care resource in the country accessible to families who do not have the ability to pay. The hospital’s pediatric cardiovascular unit now has the advanced equipment and highly-trained staff necessary to perform complex surgeries, and they provide vital follow up care that is often not available elsewhere. Through our program, low-income patients can receive:

• Free screenings and diagnoses during annual rural outreach trips
• Common and complex pediatric cardiac surgeries, such as congenital, valve replacement and repair including rheumatic, performed by CEDIMAT’s surgical team
• Highly complex pediatric cardiac surgeries performed with visiting International Mission Teams from across the United States, which also serve to train the CEDIMAT team

More than 80% of the children who come to CEDIMAT and are in need of cardiac surgery require financial assistance. Basic government-provided health insurance only covers up to 60-70% of the cost of the surgery—which costs on average US$15,000 to US$20,000—and the remaining balance is prohibitive for low-income families, who usually earn only $3,500 to $5,000 annually.

After patients are first screened, a social worker assigned to the pediatric cardiovascular unit works with families to learn about their financial situation. If financial hardship is determined, the family is referred to DOCF for aid. Our program fully covers critical material expenses including medication, oxygenators, disposables, pericardium patches, conduits, valves, and blood product through $5,000-per-surgery contributions. This support, in tandem with the hospital’s pro bono coverage of any remaining gap, is critical to offering life-saving surgery to these families.

To date, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund has provided life-saving surgeries for over 935 children, and funded 1,158 total heart procedures.