By Lucy Millett
THE MEDICAL liaison for a US hospital met with a spokesman for the Minister for Health yesterday, seeking financial help to operate on Cypriot children suffering from scoliosis.
Shriners Hospitals for Children have been treating Cypriot children with orthopaedic problems free of charge for thirty years. Children deemed in need treatment are sent to Massachusetts at the expense of the Paraskevaides Foundation.
However, due to the current economic climate, the leadership of the Shriners Hospitals can no longer afford to provide the surgical hardware needed for the scoliosis operations.
George Christodoulou, the medical liaison between Cyprus, the Paraskevaides Foundation and the Shriners Hospitals, met with Mr Vakanas, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, to discuss meeting these costs. Christodoulou said he was ‘very pleased with the outcome of the meeting.’
He explained “The ministry have requested that a medical record come from us and an application form from the parents of the children. This is so that they can process the money needed for the surgical hardware.” He said the ministry were ‘very helpful’ and the meeting was ‘very encouraging.’ Christodoulou stressed that “all other medical expenses remain free.”
He added that he hopes the parents of children with scoliosis would be made aware of this development so that they can take the necessary steps to improve their children’s quality of life.
Mr Nasos Athanasiou, spokesman for the Paraskevaides Foundation, said: “I am very optimistic about the help from the Cyprus government. As I understand it the ministry have promised to help, provided that the parents bring papers to justify this assistance. This will no doubt depend on the financial situation of the family. I am sure that the ministry will make the parents aware of what they have to do to apply for assistance.”
He added that the Foundation will continue to fund the children’s travel expenses “for as long as the need is there.” Christodoulou said of the Paraskevaides Foundation: “Everything we do for these Cypriot children is all thanks to them. Without them this programme would not exist.”
Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine which can be extremely painful. Severe cases of scoliosis can lead to diminished lung capacity, increased pressure on the heart and restricted physical activity. In adolescents scoliosis can cause the hip and leg proportions to become misaligned. According to Christodoulou Cyprus has the highest per capita rate of scoliosis worldwide. The surgery for scoliosis involves placing a rod either side of the spine to straighten it. These rods, which cost between $13 000 and $25 000 (€9000 to €17500) are the surgical hardware in question.
Shriners Hospitals have helped more than 3,000 Cypriot children free of charge since 1980 but since the global recession they have had to cut their budget to keep six of their hospitals open. This resulted in the need for financial assistance to pay for the platinum parts needed to straighten the spines of scoliosis patients.
Shriners Hospitals are dedicated to making a difference in the lives have children. Since 1922 they have helped more than 865,000 children, free of charge.
Last week Athanasiou commented ‘It is a mark of the times that for the first time in 30 years Shriners have had to ask for financial help.’