Trip to Serbia - Sept. 2015

Report by Dr. Ivan Aksentijevich and Zoran Mladenović

From September 22nd to the 29th, we spent a week touring Serbia. Our primary goal was to identify needs and potential new projects for SAMA. We also visited a number of Health Centers where SAMA has donated equipment in the past, with the objective of extending our relationship, evaluating further needs, particularly for education, and seeing how SAMA can continue to help.

SAMA donated an ultrasound system to the Vrbas Health Center “Veljko Vlahović” in July 2015. We met with the director of pediatrics, Dr. Julija Čurović-Škorić, her colleagues and staff. The ultrasound device is being used daily for the evaluation of babies and children’s hips and abdomen. This ultrasound replaced their 30 year old device. They would like to use this ultrasound system for further evaluation of children’s chest and head, but they would need more education. SAMA will work to help establish that education program.

After Vrbas, we visited the Health Center “Marton Šandor” in Mali Idjoš, where in early 2014, SAMA donated a microscope and fetal monitor. Over this past year, Dr. Perović diagnosed several women who had cervical dysplasia or early cervical cancer, which otherwise would have been missed and picked up only in a later stage of the disease. Furthermore, several pregnancies were possibly saved as a result of our donation.

In the Brus Health Center, we met with Dr. Ilic who gave us a tour of their institution. The doctors in this institution are well versed in the use of the device and can evaluate the abdomen, heart, and vasculature. The ultrasound has been put to good use and is often used in remote villages where doctors visit older people that could not otherwise be reached.

These visits were truly gratifying because we saw that our contributions and projects had been put to good use for the benefit of many patients.

We then focused on identifying possible future projects. In the Hospital in Vranje, we met with Dr. Parezanović, head of the Pediatrics Department. The hospital is the main institution taking care of people throughout the entire region of South Serbia. We found the place in appalling conditions. The bathrooms have no running water. They have improvised a water supply from another floor with a hose. The sewage pipe from the floor above is leaking. The only shower is almost open to the public, and is used by the patients but also by the cleaning staff for their cleaning equipment. The ward does not have an isolation unit, exposing the children to various infections. Case in point, a current patient, a child infected with salmonella, shares the bathroom and kitchen with non-infected children. We have received a pro forma to remodel the ward, and we are looking into it. We estimate the cost of this project at 15,000 – 17,000 USD.

We met Mrs. Verica Seničić who put us in touch with several Health Centers, which are lacking various vital instruments. These are:

The Health Center in Loznica:  We talked to Dr. Mirko Mrdjen who is in charge of the Department for Pediatric Cardiology. They need treadmill ergometry, cardioverter and defibrillator, and ECG.

The Health Center in Batočina covers a population of 13,000 in 10 surrounding villages. In 2014, they performed 54,899 visits, including more than 4,000 women and 120 pregnant women. We spoke to Dr. Ana Aničić. They need an x-ray, an ambulance, fetal monitoring device, and ECG.

The Health Center in Lučani covers 8 villages and a population of about 20,000 people. They have 10 beds for immediate care. We spoke to Dr. Gordana Gašović. They have had a lot of problems with last year’s inundation and have not been supported by the local and state government. They need an autoclave and 6-12-lead ECG.

The Health Center in Žabalj serves a population of 30,000 people. They are underdeveloped and do not receive support from the state or local government. We spoke to Dr. Dušan Blagojević. They are in need of spirometry equipment which costs about 5,000 USD. It is used for diagnostics of obstructive and restrictive pulmonary disease, screening, as well as for monitoring of treatment.

The Health Center in Opovo: Mrs. Danijela Janković contacted SAMA expressing a need for ultrasound and cardio probe, ECG and Autoclave.

We also discussed the possibility of helping equip a new Health Center in Goraždevac (Kosovo and Metohija), built by the Serbian ministry for Kosovo and Metohija. The Health Center will serve all villages around Gračanica, including the Serbian and the Albanian population. There are a couple of physicians and about 10 nurses and supporting staff ready to treat adults and children. They will have 5 beds for in-patient care. At this point, they have only the new building and nothing else, so they are in need of everything, including ambulance, gynecologic examination table, chairs, hospital beds, wheelchair, etc…

In summary, this was a very successful trip, giving us very tangible ideas for several future projects that we plan to execute. The needs are clearly everywhere, both for equipment and for improvements in infrastructure. Also, through deeper relationships with Health Centers that we already engaged with, we hope to head start the SAMA education program.  Clearly, in order to execute these programs and support the medical staff in providing better care to their patients, we are, as always, counting on the generous support of all friends of SAMA!