An investment with Bolivian children at heart

Dräger • Long-term support for Bolivia's national health system

Woman explains some medical device

Dräger, a German company specialising in medical and safety technology, has been involved in a development partnership in Bolivia since 2013. Through cooperation among GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation), La Paz Children's Hospital and Fundación Cardioinfantil (Bolivian Foundation for Infant Cardiology), working closely with the Bolivian Ministry of Health, almost 1.2 million euros will be made available until July 2016 for integrated care for children with heart conditions, living in the Bolivian mountains. This project mainly involves providing technical equipment for the La Paz Children's Hospital, as well as training for specialist medical personnel.

Due to the particularly high altitudes, the risk of being born with a heart defect is twice as high in most of Bolivia as it is in Europe, meaning this is the fate facing some 3,000 Bolivian babies every year. What’s more, many children have heart conditions caused by diseases typically associated with poverty, such as rheumatic fever and Chagas disease, spread by kissing bugs.

Since Bolivia lacks resources for diagnosing and treating children with heart conditions, this kind of medical help has not been covered by state health insurers up until now. Qualified personnel and the right technical equipment could be a game changer.

Dräger has been committed to the struggle to improve care for these children since the end of 2012, when the idea arose of providing La Paz Children's Hospital with medical equipment. Thanks to the programme, it has been possible to arrange for support on a comprehensive and sustainable basis. This strengthens healthcare in Bolivia, while helping to develop a local market for medical equipment and services.

In order to achieve the project objective, a complex catalogue of measures was drawn up, which involve numerous partners. Dräger donated equipment at the beginning of 2014, in order to provide the state-run La Paz Children's Hospital with the high quality medical technology required to operate on children with heart conditions and provide post-operative intensive care. Then, Dräger's commercial agent Hansa trained some 40 hospital employees in the proper use and maintenance of this equipment. GIZ finances continuing education on a national level for 190 nurses and more than 60 pediatricians in the districts and provinces of La Paz, Oruro, Potosí and Chuquisaca, and pays for 29 specialist personnel from the children's hospital to go for continuing training in the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, to which the hospital and the health authorities in La Paz (SEDES) also contribute. Efforts have also been made to provide more information for parents.

several doctors in an operating theatre look into the camera

In order to ensure that continuing education and treatment could be provided over the long term, state decision makers were involved from an early stage. This was intended to garner state support for a nationwide health programme for screening for congenital and acquired heart conditions. In an agreement between the children's hospital, the health authorities and GIZ in Bolivia, the Bolivians agreed create additional posts and release personnel from work for education purposes. Several of the medicaments proposed have already been listed among the treatments available for mothers and children under the state health insurance system and efforts are being made to cover treatment costs. Furthermore, at the beginning of September 2014, there was an international congress on heart conditions in children, held in La Paz.

Fundación Cardioinfantil and the German-Bolivian Chamber of Industry and Commerce have worked together to provide timely and efficient project management on the ground. The foundation has been entrusted by GIZ with overall project implementation locally. The Chamber of Industry and Commerce has been authorised by Dräger to monitor the progress of the project and to evaluate and document it.


This sucess story was first published in the iMOVE publication Developing Skills for Employability with German Partners • 8 Success Stories from the Health and Geriatric Care Sector

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