Direct order solves stent shortage
The shortage of coronary stents, used to open clogged heart arteries, was solved after the government issued a direct order to buy enough for everyone, Health Minister Joe Cassar said yesterday.
"People can put their minds at rest that the shortage of stents has been resolved," Dr Cassar said.
The authorities admitted to the shortage two months ago after a supply contract was cancelled because the average price of a stent changed drastically in the 10 months it took to adjudicate the tender.
Although the ministry never confirmed how many stents were available, it insisted there were enough for emergency operations. But that left about 300 patients waiting for the insertion of the small wire mesh tube, which is put in narrowed arteries after they are opened through an angioplasty.
Dr Cassar said the government decided to issue a direct order and, after getting the go-ahead from the Finance Ministry, bought the stents to counter the shortage.
Dr Cassar praised the hospital cardiac unit, which has been up and running in Malta for 15 years. Over these years, the catheterisation laboratory at the unit handled 35,000 angiograms, 6,000 angioplasties, 2,500 pacemakers and 400 implanted defibrillators. There were over 5,500 open heart operations and 13 heart transplants.
The idea to set up a cardiac unit in Malta was thought up by two consultants: cardiothoracic surgeon Alex Manchè and cardiologist Albert Fenech.
Prof. Fenech explained how only this week Maltese cardiac surgeons started using a small mesh ring that widens a severely narrowed heart valve. Called Tavi, short for Transcather Aorthic Valve Implantation, the device removes the need for open heart surgery as it can easily be inserted through a vein in the leg or through a small incision on the chest. It had already been implanted in two patients and should be used in another three, Prof. Fenech said.