Govt. hospitals set to resume transplants

The COVID-19 pandemic had brought both living and deceased donor transplants to a halt

With a long waitlist for organ transplants, government hospitals are taking steps to put transplant services back on track after they came to a halt during the pandemic. A number of hospitals are planning to resume transplant activities in March.

Amid the pandemic, almost all services, except emergencies, came to a standstill, as government hospitals (GHs) were at the centre of COVID-19 management in the State. In the last few months, regular activities, including elective surgeries and outpatient services, have resumed at the institutions, with the exception being organ transplants — both living and deceased donor transplantations.

Now work to resume transplants have taken off in a number of government medical college hospitals. Official sources said among the government medical college hospitals, the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital had started living donor renal transplants and was gearing up for the deceased donor transplant programme.

“It is important that GHs re-start transplant programmes as the number of patients on the waiting lists is huge. For instance, nearly 3,000 patients are on the kidney waitlist in GHs in the State, of which around 1,800 are waiting for a transplant at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH). Many are managing with dialysis, but want to get the surgery at the earliest. Patients have started making calls, inquiring whether hospitals are starting transplants as the COVID-19 cases have declined,” an official said.

While government institutions have been slow-paced in resuming transplant programmes, private hospitals have been performing both living donor and deceased donor organ transplants in the past year.

As per data, a total of 80 organ transplants were performed from April 2020 to date. All transplants were performed at private hospitals — 26 kidney, 17 liver, 18 heart transplants, one heart and lung combined transplant and 18 dual lung transplants. In fact, from April 2020 to January 2021, a total of 297 living donor renal transplants and 190 liver transplants were performed.

RGGGH dean E. Theranirajan said transplants were likely to be resumed by the first week of March.

P. Balaji, dean of the Government Stanley Medical College Hospital, said living donor renal transplants were set to resume on February 24.

P. Vasanthamani, dean of the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, said they were planning to start living donor kidney transplants at the Government Royapettah Hospital, one of its affiliated institutions, by the second week of March.

However, challenges are aplenty — a government transplant surgeon said the pandemic had disrupted organ transplants.

As hospitals restart the live programme, both donors and recipients will be tested for COVID-19, 48 hours prior to surgery, he said, adding, “Our transplant operation area and post-transplant ward have to be located far away from COVID-19 patients, whose numbers are less now. Our staff, operation theatre personnel or anaesthesiologists with fever or cough will be screened before they are involved in transplant-related activities, while deceased donors will be screened for COVID-19 before donation.”

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