4 de marzo de 2013

Dr Horacio Vogelfang: Democracy – Dr Raúl Alfonsín, Dr Néstor Kirchner, and Dr Alicia Kirchner.



Dr Horacio Vogelfang: Democracy – Dr Raúl Alfonsín, Dr Néstor Kirchner, and Dr Alicia Kirchner.

Traducción: Felicitas Soria 
Tomás: Dr Horacio Vogelfang. Horacio, it’s a joy, an honour, more than an honour really, to have you here with us in Cita en las Diagonales. Paediatric cardiovascular surgeon, Chief of Hospital Garrahan Heart Trasplant Service, fellow Medicine student, many years ago, comrade-in-arms.
Throughout your career, did you feel different degrees of support? Were there different policies that enabled more or less developments regarding some indispensable things for you?
Horacio: Yes. Well, for me, the decisive breakpoint was democracy. Let’s not forget that during the first democratic government[1], Alfonsín’s, Hospital Garrahan was inaugurated. That was very important, and was done with great support from the government. Later I, due to my situation at work... I was fourth or fifth in the hierarchy... my relationship with other authorities was scarce. As I began to rise positions, I realised that you had to ask for things, had to know how to ask for things, and had to know how to show that those things were necessary.  And I found favourable replies. Inside the hospital, for example, for the development of grafts, all that technology, I found great support with the directors. At the beginning, when it couldn’t be done, or were at the initial stage, I was able to bring, from England, in 48 or 72 hours, a valve. And here I had to visit Aerolíneas Argentinas, Customs, the authorities at Ezeiza International Airport. And I found a lot of help. And, during this last stage of my career, regarding artificial heart transplants, the government participated very actively.
[Excerpt from “With a hand over the heart”, from TV Pública Digital]
The presentation to the Government was very moving. It positioned this kind of intervention as an intervention that can be made and has to be supported by the Government.
Horacio: Well, I took this as a challenge. What comes first: the egg, or the chicken? What for one is a challenge, or what the patient needs? Regarding the little children that had to go through a surgical procedure... I had operated on them twice or thrice during six or eight years.  We had reached a point with them where they had to be operated. And other diseases that from the beginning had no solution could be solved with a transplant. Well, you don’t solve the disease; you offer a child the chance to live, because with his or her “current” heart, there are only a few months or a year of life. So, this necessity in the patients made me see that we needed to create a programme for heart transplant, for children and in a public hospital. I visited patients that wouldn’t be able to access a transplant, because their heart condition was so delicate, terminal even, that the waiting time, months for us, are centuries for them. So, it was necessary to have something that kept the children alive while they are waiting a transplant. And then, we researched what was developed in the world regarding what can be called artificial hearts, and there was only one team, from Germany, that could fit their work together, with our child patients...patients of low weight. And, we trained. It was quite a challenge to get those elements, which were very expensive. But, due to constant phone calls, messages, I’d say that very quickly, about the third or fourth patient that we requested this for, we found a way: a subsidy from an organisation of the Ministry of Social Development.
[Excerpt from “With a hand over the heart”, from TV Pública Digital]
A very quick mechanism has been established with the Ministry of Social Development that works wonderfully. We only pick up our phone and we say that we have patient with this and that characteristics, that they don’t have health insurance and that they need the artificial heart, and the Ministry of Social Development immediately provides these resources.
Horacio: All this with direct contact with the hospital authorities, who thought this perfect. They gave me free way. They were honest: the hospital doesn’t have the budget for that kind of technology, but they gave me free way for me to move everywhere I needed and get the resources. It didn’t cost me a lot: with some phone call, some interviews... In the Ministry of Social Development, they met with me quickly. That lead us to the Pink House, with the then President Néstor Kirchner, who gave us the equipment. So, when you asked me at the beginning if I found answers or what kind of answers: I found positive answers. And I’d say from the highest authorities of a country.  From a president, from a minister.




[1] Raúl Alfonsín’s was the first democratic government (1983-1989) following the military dictatorship of 1976-1983 [Note of the T.]