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Times of India
21 October 2010
By Pratibha Masand
Mumbai, India

KEM Hospital Will Perform The . 20–Lakh Procedure For . 6 Lakh
Now, Liver Transplant Is Affordable
When 27–year–old Ulhas Chowdhary walked out of KEM Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, it was a megamoment for the city’s premier medical school. Chowdhary is the first patient on whom the institute conducted a liver transplant and, in the process, showed the country that transplants can indeed be affordable.

While Ulhas didn’t have to pay any money at all for his treatment as charitable organizations took care of his expenses, many suffering from a chronic liver disease can’t even think about going in for a transplant owing to the huge cost the procedure entails–a liver transplant in a private medical facility costs Rs 18–20 lakh. However, patients can heave a sigh of relief now that KEM Hospital is offering to conduct liver transplant for Rs 6 lakh.

Ulhas, a software engineer based in Pune, developed autoimmune hepatitis, a disease in which a person’s immune system attacks her or his own liver cells, two years ago. Ulhas’ 51–year–old father, Sashikant Chowdhary, wanted to donate his liver to his son, but the family couldn’t afford the expensive treatment. "I was ready to donate my liver to him. But the transplant centre at KEM was not complete and my son had to wait for two years to have a transplant," said Sashikant, who resides in Jalgaon.

Three months ago, KEM Hospital, in collaboration with Dr Arvinder Singh Soin, a Delhi–based surgeon who is credited with conducting the maximum number of transplants in the country, opened its transplant centre. Ulhas was operated on at the centre last month.

"The next nine patients who can’t pay for the procedure will undergo free liver transplant surgery, thanks to an NGO which has agreed to foot their bills," said Dr Chetan Kantharia, consultant surgeon at KEM Hospital.

"Also, the government is planning to include transplants in the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayi Yojna which will allow patients to avail of nearly Rs 3 lakh each for a liver transplant," said Dr Kantharia. Pointing out that the KEM facility would give impetus to organ transplants in Maharashtra, Dr Kantharia said, "A total of 23 patients are listed for transplants at our centre. Of these, eight need liver transplants."

Dr Soin, who performed the first liver transplant in 1998 and is currently a visiting professor at KEM’s liver transplant centre, said, "Earlier, liver transplants had a 50% success rate. Now, the success rate is 95%. Liver transplant is a complex procedure, which one can master only with experience. This may be the one of reasons why Maharashtra fairs so badly when it comes to liver transplants."

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