Almost a decade ago, when Stanley Medical College managed to do a liver transplant at their less-than-fancy facility, private hospital administrators would have been worried. After all, liver transplants were reserved for an ‘exclusive’ set of surgeons and hospitals who demanded top dollar for plying their expertise. If public sector (read government-run) hospitals entered the fray and did a Rs 25 lakh surgery for a pittance, it would turn things around. It’s now 2013 and despite the economy being what it is, liver transplant prices are still extremely high – and Stanley is still the only State-run centre doing transplants. On World Liver Day, City Express takes a look at where things stand.
“We do not anticipate the cost coming down for liver transplant, because the expertise and the drugs that it requires are extremely expensive. It is also an extremely risky procedure that requires a lot of standby care,” explains Dr A Olithselvan, Senior Consultant Hepatologist at Global Health City. With liver transplants still costing upward of `20 lakh (MIOT hospitals announced last year that they were doing the most economic transplants at that cost) things are unlikely to change for the next decade or so, he adds. “When things become like public sector healthcare in the UK, then no one will worry about the cost of transplants,” he states.
Things are looking up though, courtesy a concerted effort by the government; sources in the Health Department have revealed that a pilot project of 10 liver transplants to be covered under the CM’s Comprehensive Life Insurance Scheme is likely to have its first case in the next couple of weeks. The transplants may be done in any private or government hospital and will be covered under the scheme. “Based on the outcome and expenditure, this will provide the grounds for the feasability of having such expensive and super-special procedures covered by the insurance scheme,” said the official. In addition the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital has started a 30-bed liver care centre dedicated to diseases that affect the bile organ, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B and C and cancer. Dean Dr V Kanagasabai said, “We will definitely begin liver transplants here within six months. We are doing the ground work now and we have brought in the doctors for the job.”