LAHORE, March 18: A critical scheme – Paediatric Kidney Transplant – has been shelved at the Children’s Hospital Lahore, ignoring the fact that an estimated 10 per cent of the total children visiting the specialised institute with defected kidneys require surgical intervention to get a ‘fresh lease of life’.
The scheme was launched in 2005 during the tenure of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi but not even a single child got kidney transplant during the entire tenure of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led provincial government.
During his whole tenure, Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif had been holding the portfolio of health with the stated purpose of improving the public sector healthcare facilities in the province.
Some consultants call it ‘height of indifference’ shown on part of the hospital administration, in particular and the Punjab government in general, towards the ailing children.
Urologists say the children born with single kidney or conjoined kidneys or even with severe malfunctioning kidneys need transplant for saving their lives. A majority of them were donated kidneys by their mothers, they said.
According to an official privy to the development, costly and sensitive equipment worth millions of rupees was purchased and delivered to the Children’s Hospital in 2006 to run the programme but it had been lying in disuse in Urology Operation Theatre store at the institute since then.
He said it was being feared that because of remaining unused for the last seven years, most of that costly equipment might turn into ‘scrap’ after expiry of warranty which usually covered a maximum period of two years.
Similarly, the official said a post of ‘Professor of Urology’ that was created some months after provision of equipment to the hospital was abolished in 2009.
He said Dr Ziaul Meraj was associate professor when the Paediatric Kidney Transplant scheme was launched. He was promoted as professor in February 2012 and was now heading the department as ‘professor of paediatric surgery’ instead of a professor of paediatric urology.
He said two senior urologists -- Prof Dr Imtiaz Akhtar Bajwa and Prof Dr Manan Qureshi -- were transferred and posted in 2009 and 2010, respectively, at the Children’s Hospital for running the programme effectively. They, however, got themselves transferred from the institute citing ‘pathetic response’ of its administration towards the minor kidney patients visiting the facility for surgical interventions. Now Prof Bajwa is heading Mayo Hospital urology department while Prof Manan was working at the Services Hospital. These senior doctors were shocked to know that there was neither trained human resource nor infrastructure to run the project, he added.
Consequently, the minors visiting the hospital from all over the country with kidney failure were being put on the dialysis machines for life or referred to private or other public sector hospitals for ‘renal replacement therapy’.
The official said the institute had total eight dialysis machines and only 16 patients could avail the facility in two shifts (morning and evening) while a large number of children were waiting for their turn as very few public hospitals offered the facility.
According to the documents available with Dawn, the kidney care equipment was provided to the institute at a total cost of 26,813 Euros under tender No 7226/05/PH&L, dated May 8, 2006. Of that, the most sensitive gadgets like vessel scissors, micro-scissors, micro-suture tying forceps, micro-forceps, dissecting and ligature forceps, vascular dilators and sterilisation and storing cases for the micro vascular instruments might turn scrap if not used within two years of purchase, he apprehended.
Besides, no inspection was carried out to examine the effectiveness and ensure maintenance of these instruments purchased with the public money, the official said.
Children’s Hospital Dean Prof Tahir Masood Ahmed said some factors like non-availability of urology surgeons for adult patients, trained staff and registration of the scheme by the Human Organ Transplant Authority (HOTA) led to inordinate delay in provision of treatment to patients.
He said the three senior doctors, including Prof Manan and Prof Imtiaz, who were posted at the hospital could not discharge their duties “due to some reasons”.
He further said another major reason behind the delay was that the Punjab government had decided to launch a combined liver-kidney transplant programme but later it modified the same and planned Ali Hajveri Institute of Transplant.
“Now we have decided to re-launch Paediatric Kidney Transplant at the hospital”, Prof Tahir said.
For the purpose, the hospital was contacting the HOTA for the registration of the Centre, he added.