Earlier this month, the Specialized Cardiac Hospital Yambol, a part of the renowned in Europe Bulgarian Cardiac Institute, won the first “Most Challenging Case Award” a Bulgarian hospital has ever received at the world’s largest conference on interventional cardiovascular medicine in San Francisco, CA.
This triumph for post-communist Bulgaria, in the midsts of the infamously dire conditions of Bulgarian healthcare, comes as a welcome achievement for the medical community as well as a beacon of hope for patients.
“Without the doctor’s courage and expertise, I wouldn’t be here today,” says Jordan Savov, 43, the patient whose heart’s x-rays made it across the ocean to be presented to the international community of leading cardiologists and cardiac surgeons.
The conference in Transcatheater Cardiovascular Therapeutics, held from November 7th to the 11th in San Francisco, CA gathered more than 11 900 participants this year, from institutions such as Ospedale di Cisanello in Pisa, Italy, Kerckhoff Clinic Bad Nauheim in Germany and the Department of CardiovascularMedicine at Ohio State University.
Mr. Savov’s case, presented by Dr. Reznicek from Cardiac Hospital Yambol, won over 800 other cases. It showed the successful retrieval of a ruptured and detached balloon during percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).
The intervention, performed in Yambol by Dr. Bistra Pesheva and Dr. Vitek Reznicek, aimed to aspirate a thrombi and place a stent in the heart. During the procedure, the balloon used in stenting disappeared. The doctors managed to “fish” it out and save the 43-year old man – a feat that won them the “Most Challenging Case” Award in San Francisco.
The cardiac hospital in Yambol is part of the Bulgarian Cardiac Institute, a rare western-style institution practicing modern medicine, with three other cardiachospitals across the country, in Veliko Turnovo, Varna and Pleven. The four hospitals have contributed to a significant drop in mortality from cardiac disease in the heavily afflicted Balkan nation. The institute is about to open a fifth hospital in hopes of further improving the heart health of the country.
Despite the national trend of immigration of doctors and the chronic scarcity of specialists in the country, the Institute has attracted renowned cardiologists from Italy, France and the Czech Republic to train young Bulgarian physicians specializing in cardiology. One of those is Dr. Vitek Rezincek, whose closing words at the presentation in San Francisco were, aptly: “Never ever give up!”
Bulgarian patients across the country hope that this attitude of saving patients at all costs will spread further than the specialized cardiac hospitals of the Bulgarian Cardiac Institute. “I have been in many hospitals [in Bulgaria], but the Yambol Cardiac Clinic is so different, so much better, I can’t express it with words,” said Tomo Mandjalenkov a patient of the hospital from the city of Burgas.
“Unfortunately, the ministry and the compulsory health insurance board, not only do not share the patient’s wish, but have systematically sabotaged our efforts to improve the cardiac health of the whole region and raise the standards of medicine,” said the administrative director of the Yambol Cardiac Hospital, Irina Kaludova.
“We are receiving numerous awards and recognition from the medical community abroad, such as the recent award in San Francisco as well as many others, but instead of encouraging our work, the National Health Insurance Fund has cut our budget and is conducting a series of audits in bad faith,” said Kaludova.
Behind these hostile government policies stands an oligarchic circle of power, threatened by successful independent institutions like the Bulgarian Cardiac Institute, who are stirring up the status quo and changing the care patients receive, thus providing real competition, Kaludova explains.
“The Pavlova-Dushkov clique at NHIF has had a routine practice against us for many months. Although audits prove, time and again, that not only do we comply with all regulations, but also with higher standards than any other Bulgarian hospital, the checks and financial crunch still continue and thwart our work of saving lives,” the director said.
Meanwhile, patients can only hope that special interests will not prevail over real progress in healthcare, so that, when in need, they will be so lucky to receive the level of care that saved Mr. Savov’s life against the odds.