Safdarjung starts kidney transplants

Over 50 patients are already in queue to get organs from donors

After being in the process for seven years, Safdarjung Hospital conducted its first surgical operation to transplant kidneys. On October 8 this year, the hospital, for the first time, transplanted kidney on a 52-year-old patient. 

With it, it joins AIIMS, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (RML) and Army Hospital as the only government hospitals in the national capital to provide this facility.

Though the operation theatres and equipment were ready and surgeons were trained a few years ago, the hospital was awaiting a nephrologist. 

“As per rule, two nephrologists are mandatory for renal transplant. We already had one. After the government recently posted another nephrologist here, we initiated the process on the patient whose wife was willing to donate her kidney,” said the hospital’s superintendent, Dr B D Athani.

Five other patients, with ready donors, are being prepared for transplant in the near future, with two of them in advanced stage of finalisation. Over 50 patients are already in queue for getting other persons’ kidneys. 

The long waiting list also highlights the grim scenario of renal transplant facility in Delhi. Safdarjung Hospital and RML are capable of performing only one such a operation in a week and AIIMS, only two. 

It’s major private hospitals, though few in number, which perform much of the 200-250 transplants in the capital every year, inspite of charging Rs five lakh per operation.

None of the over 36 Delhi government hospitals provide the service, leaving the central government-run hospitals to bear the burden. 

Dr Anup Kumar, head of urology department at the hospital, said the hospital intends to perform one transplant every day. 

“That will be possible when we dedicate one whole floor for kidney transplant in the superspecialty block that is coming up,” said the doctor who was part of the team that performed the first transplant.

The hospital will not be charging the patients for surgery and medicines, which it intends to provide for at least six months after the operation. “These patients require life-long medication. After a period of time we will try to provide it to them for whole life,” said Dr Vimal Bhandari, officer in-charge of kidney transplant.

Initially, the monthly cost of the medicine comes up to Rs 10,000, which later dips to around Rs 5,000. To reduce the financial burden on patients, they will be sent to AIIMS for a few essential tests which are not available at Safdarjung Hospital.

A total of five doctors and 16 nurses were earlier provided training in the procedure by doctors of AIIMS and BLK Memorial Hospital. However, the biggest barrier for conducting such surgeries in the hospital was procuring nephrologists, who are paid much higher by private hospitals.

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