PESHAWAR: The first-ever patient from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has undergone liver transplant surgery free of cost under Social Health Protection Initiative.

The relatives of the patient, a woman from Peshawar district, told Dawn that she received free liver transplant on Sehat Card Plus after fulfillment of all formalities including approval of Human Organs Transplant Authority (Hota) in Shifa International Hospital Islamabad.

They said that she had been suffering from liver cirrhosis and had no chance of survival except transplant that was very expensive.

“The woman has a family donor. She will stay at hospital for two weeks and will receive subsequent medication for one year,” the doctors involved in the transplantation told Dawn. They said that approval of Hota was essential to ensure that no money was involved in donation of organs.

Doctors say she will stay in Islamabad hospital for two weeks

They said that transplants were carried out after fulfilment of laid down procedures. “There is no age limit but patients should possess valid National Identity Card according to Nadra record. There are separate desks in hospitals for Sehat Card Plus patients. Results in transplants are very good because we follow international protocols,” said the doctors.

Health department had signed agreements with three hospitals to enlist free liver transplant in Social Health Protection Initiative, which was formally launched on Thursday. The department has empanelled a total of three hospitals for transplant so far.

A single procedure of liver transplant requires Rs5 million and each family is eligible to spend Rs1 million on healthcare in public and private hospitals under the programme. The cost of transplantation is high due to which the government has included it in the programme to facilitate patients with bad livers.

The other two hospitals are Quaid-i-Azam International Hospital Rawalpindi and Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute Lahore. According to agreements, all the 7.64 million families of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are entitled to avail cashless transplantation at the selected health facilities.

Last year, the department launched free kidney transplants and so far 50 patients with damaged kidneys have undergone free surgeries after arranging lawful donors. Most of the beneficiaries underwent operations in Rehman Medical Institute Peshawar. The hospitals designated for free renal transplant charge Rs1.4 million for the procedure through Sehat Card Plus.

However, there is no hospital in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for liver transplant due to which the department has inked contracts with hospitals in other province to save those, who were about to die.

More than 700 hospitals have been registered across the country under the programme. The programme was launched in 2015 in collaboration with KfW, a German bank, covering three per cent population in each of four districts of the province. It was extended to 51pc population in 2016, 69pc in 2017 and to all residents of the province in 2020.

More than 800,000 patients through funds of Rs20 billion have been treated so far under the programme. The initiative is implemented by State Life Insurance Corporation on behalf of the government.

The government has allocated Rs21 billion to the programme in the current financial year. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa model has been implemented in Punjab, Balochistan, some parts of Sindh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. The department is in the process of selecting new hospitals for the programme in view of the patients’ load.

Empanelment of new hospitals continues as after extending the programme to all people, the number of patients has risen. Last month, the department constituted a committee to make the selection process of hospital more transparent and ensure that patients get quality care.

The department has also been issuing warnings to the hospitals violating agreements the complaints of patients.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2022

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