PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to provide free liver transplant facility only to ‘selected poor patients’ under the Social Health Protection Initiative, according to official sources.

Unlike the other diseases, which are being covered free of cost under SHPI, the government has decided that cashless liver transplant would be provided only to the poor people, who couldn’t afford the expenses.

SHPI has already finalised contracts with two private hospitals, one each in Lahore and Islamabad, for free liver transplant of the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but owing to the high charges, it has been decided to entertain only poor patients.

The charges of a single liver transplant at the two hospitals are around Rs5 million, which can eat up the entire budget of Rs1 billion allocated for the purpose. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has allocated Rs21 billion for the programme for the year 2021-22 that include Rs1 billion only for free liver transplant.

Govt has allocated Rs1bn under SHPI; contracts finalised with two private hospitals in Lahore and Islamabad

Dr Mohammad Riaz Tanoli, the chief executive officer of SHPI, told Dawn that they wanted to provide free medical services to poor people. “We will put in place a mechanism on the pattern of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre to judge the financial status of the people wanting to undergo liver transplant,” he added.

He said that government had been providing cashless treatment services to the people regardless of the financial status for other ailments. He added government wanted to facilitate 200 patients in one year by spending the amount already set aside for liver transplant.

Dr Riaz said that government also wanted the patients to pay for their pre-transplant screening to reduce burden on the programme. “Not only liver transplant surgery but the patients would also require post-transplant treatment for six months the cost of which would be paid by SHPI. We want to reduce the chances of rejection of transplant, therefore, the post-transplant expenses would be paid by the government,” he added.

He said that their teams would interview the families besides conducting other investigations to ensure that the patients belonged to poor background and couldn’t afford the charges of liver transplant.

He said that they had treated 500,000 patients since the extension of the programme to the entire population in November last year. A total of Rs10 billion had been spent on the free treatment of patients in the province.

“We are waiting for go-ahead by Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra, who is supervising the cashless treatment programme. The liver transplants would start from January next year,” he said.

Dr Riaz said that given the popularity of SHPI, the people were busy to correct their credentials in Nadra to be able to avail free health services at government and private hospitals.

He said that last year, the number of registered families in the province was 7.2 million that was increased to 7.6 million because government provided treatment to patients on Nadra’s record. “Every three months, we are updating record with Nadra due to which the quantum of complaints has also been reduced by 60 per cent. There are 524 empanelled hospitals countrywide including 166 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he added.

The programme was started to cover three per cent population in four selected districts of the province with the financial support of KfW bank of Germany in 2015. It was extended to 51 per cent population of the province in 2016 and then to 69 per cent in 2017 and to the entire population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2020.

Overall, about Rs18 billion has been spent on the treatment of 730,000 patients. Each family is entitled to avail up to Rs1 million free treatment services at the designated hospitals.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021

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