Before Armenia Fund built a modern cardiology center in Goris, some people would have to drive hundreds of miles to get help in Yerevan. With the project now complete, residents of southern Armenia and Artsakh have world-class cardiac care close to home.
It’s only a slight discomfort at first. Then it gets worse. And worse still. It becomes hard to breathe. Your chest is so tight it feels like you’re trapped underneath a rock. It’s a heart attack and you need to go to the emergency room – every minute counts. But you’re in Goris and the nearest cardiac emergency center is in Yerevan, 150 miles away.
The lack of adequate medical care in areas outside of the capital city is an issue that Armenia Fund takes seriously. When it was evaluating different projects and realized that Syunik – where Goris is located and the largest region of Armenia after Artsakh – did not have anywhere to properly treat heart disease, it went to work.
Choosing to build a center that specializes in heart health was done as purposefully and deliberately as the construction of any Armenia Fund project: according to the World Health Organization, heart disease, the main cause of heart attacks, is the primary cause of death in middle- and low-income countries.
Similarly, Goris was chosen because of its central location in Syunik, accessible to all parts of southern Armenia. It is also able to serve Artsakh more easily than any other location in Syunik because it is the origin of another Armenia Fund project, the Goris-Stepanakert Highway.
The two-story cardiology center was built to hold 16 beds and has a polyclinic which is able to accommodate up to 20 emergency patients a day. It is also equipped with central heating, a necessary feature for a building in the high-altitude – thus often cold – climate of Syunik. The facility was also equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment imported from France; in Armenia, similar wares can otherwise only be found in Yerevan.
Besides the structure, the Goris Cardiology Center was provided with ambulances to be used for emergency patient pick-ups. In addition to transporting patients to the Center, the ambulances work with the local emergency room at Zangezur Hospital to pick up patients that need other types of care and drop them off at the hospital.
In the constantly developing world of biotechnology and medicine, the whole staff of the cardiology center is sent to France for extensive training. Additionally, the French Armenian Doctors Association sends experts among its ranks to provide onsite training to local doctors. Local and international doctors stay overnight in special rooms built for medical personnel, making them available 24 hours a day for any emergency cases.
As important as urgent care is in treating heart disease, the best way to ensure a longer life for patients is through preventive care for at-risk patients and continued care for those currently suffering from the disease. The Goris Cardiology Center provides both preventive and continued care to those who need it while acting as an indispensable life support system for serious cases that need advanced medical attention in Yerevan or elsewhere.
Although the Goris Cardiology Center provides high-quality healthcare, because it is serving a population that might not otherwise be able to afford it, the cost to patients is subsidized and any additional costs beyond what the patient is able to pay are covered.
Goris, the rest of Syunik, and the whole of Artsakh have about 300,000 people – about 10% of the Armenia’s population – whereas these regions account for over half of Armenia’s territory. True to its humanitarian mission, Armenia Fund built the cardiology center so that residents in this expansive part of the country would receive the medical attention they deserve, no matter where they lived. That’s why when a person from Kapan, Syunik’s capital, suffers a heart attack and is being rushed by an ambulance to the nearest appropriate medical facility, it doesn’t zip past Goris, 45 miles away, to drive another 150 miles to Yerevan. Today, the first stop for that ambulance is the new cardiology center. For the victim of a heart attack, every minute counts.
This piece was written for Armenia Fund and was originally published here on July 10, 2014.