A dedicated aircraft for transport of organs. This is what the state government has now committed itself to, thanks to dna expose on how non-availability of air transport and its high cost resulted in seven life-saving organs getting wasted in a recent incident.
he dna report, on January 20, laid bare how logistics and air plane charges killed seven organs in a January 14 incident, that could have given new lease of life to seven patients waiting for cadaver organs in Mumbai.
According to doctors, the exorbitant cost quoted by aircraft operators lead to the derailing of this inter-state organ transplant plan. While a 30-year-old brain dead woman's family was ready to donate her heart for a patient in Mumbai, the aircraft operators quoted Rs 13-14 lakh for the transport. The health authorities and doctors tried their best to negotiate, but failed.
Acting on dna report, the state health ministry on Wednesday held a preliminary investigation at LTMG Sion hospital, which was attended by state health authorities, zonal transplant coordination committee (ZTCC) authorities, representatives of four private hospitals – Fortis, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital, Global and Jupiter – and three aircraft operators – Sai Craft Ltd, Aviators Air Rescue and ICATT (international critical care air transfer team).
The aircraft operators, during the two-hour long investigation, claimed that at least 50 aircraft were busy flying to Tirupati on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, on January 14, the reason why the fare was exorbitantly high on the day. "With all stake-holders under one roof, we also got to know version of both the hospitals and aircraft service providers. Everyone agreed that it's a social responsibility to make organ transplant feasible for the needy," said Dr Gauri Rathod, nodal officer, human organ transplant programme of Maharashtra.
According to sources, the aircraft operators also revealed that it would be difficult at this point of time to have a standard air fare for transporting organs, but once the transport of donor cadavers goes up, they can have a fixed fare.
Currently, the cost of a heart transplant procedure is between Rs 20-22 lakh. If the air ambulance is used to bring the donor heart from one state to another, then a patient has to shell out Rs 7-10 lakh extra. This amount directly goes to the provider of air ambulance service.
Dr Rathod said that following the Wednesday's discussion, the state government has decided to ink an MoU with private aircraft operators to have a dedicated air service for organ transport. "With the intra and inter-state transplants gaining momentum and the Bhuj episode gaining attention, we are in process of identifying dedicated organ transplant programme that will make commercial airline cost feasible," said Dr Rathod. She said the ZTCC will be submitting the report to the state health minister on the same.
The government is considering signing an MoU (memorandum of understanding) with private aircraft operators, to enlist their service in case of inter-state or intra-state organ transplant
Dr Guruprasad Shetty, liver transplant surgeon at Global hospital, who was present in the meeting, said that with inter-state organ transplants gaining momentum, it is good to see government taking initiative. "Inter or intra-state organ transfer is still at nascent stage in India. You need a high number to bring down the air fare. But with the government intervening, we are hopeful that air transport of organs will soon be an affordable affair," said Dr Shetty.
Air transport cost will decrease significantly if the no of transplants increase. Moreover most hospitals get in touch with us only at the last moment when an organ transplant organ needs to be transported . There are no tie ups or no formal agreements between our Air Ambulance company - Hi Flying or their hospitals. It is pretty unplanned. This makes everything every expensive. Says Dr Nitin Yende. Director of Hi Flying aviation - Air Ambulance International from Mumbai Office.