The number of hepatitis patients in Pakistan is increasing, however, it lacks liver transplant facilities.
Dr Anwar A Khan of Shaikh Zayed Hospital said that there was a dire need for liver transplant facilities in Pakistan. “We have established a unit at Shaikh Zayed Hospital, but there are only three liver surgeons available. At least eight surgeons are required for transplant procedure,” he said.
He said that in Pakistan hepatitis was spreading like an epidemic. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation, 10 per cent of all Pakistanis suffer from some type of hepatitis. The number, the report says, is increasing by the day. Around one million people in Pakistan needed a liver surgery. The treatment is available only to those who can afford foreign travel.
Dr Khan estimated the cost of a liver transplant at Rs4 million, if performed in Pakistan. “It will certainly be very expensive, but that is one tenth the foreign countries,” he said.
In Pakistan, hepatitis patients are generally treated by physicians or gastroenterologists. Hepatitis B and C cause irreversible damage to liver that cannot be treated without a surgery.
Dr Khan said that there were only five liver surgeons in Pakistan.
India started liver surgery some 15 years ago. It costs around Rs7 million for a Pakistani to get a surgery in India. Those who face problems getting visas, go to Europe, where the same surgery costs around Rs20 million.
Dr Arif Rashid Khwaja, a liver and breast surgeon at Jinnah Hospital told The Express Tribune, that a liver surgery was very complicated. He regretted that the governments had taken no initiative in this regard. “So far whatever has been done for hepatitis patients in the country is a result of the efforts of some physicians. In many cases surgery is required. We lack facilities for that,” he said.
He said that a few years ago a memorandum of understanding was signed with China to start liver transplants in Pakistan, but there has been no programme on that.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.