Here’s some happy news to start the new year.
Fifty-eight people who died in 2016 donated their hearts, livers, lungs and kidneys, and just like that, transformed the lives of 184 people and their families.
This was a record 38% jump compared to 2015. The donations helped patients in Mumbai suffering from end-stage organ failure, according to data from the Zonal Transplant Coordination Centre (ZTCC), the not-for-profit government organisation that promotes cadaver donations.
The rise, ZTCC officials said, was because more people were better aware about donating organs.
“When the organ donation programme began in 2000, the figures were persistently single-digit until 2008,” said Dr Gustad Daver, a founding member and president of the ZTCC. “But in the past three years, with the media giving the issue more attention, the programme has got a shot in the arm.”
And, Mumbai wasn’t the only city to record this upswing. Other cities in the state did exceedingly well, with Pune bettering Mumbai’s record with 59 donations compared to 16 in 2015.
“It is good news that even smaller cities such as Nashik and Kolapur have seen six cadaver donations this year,” said Arati Gokhale, central coordinator, ZTCC Pune. “The awareness about organ donation has increased with repeated training programmes.”
Doctors at Mumbai’s Fortis Hospital in Mulund — who did the first paediatric heart surgery in the state on January 3, 2016 — said people from smaller cities such as Aurangabad made donations generously.
“We performed seven paediatric heart transplants this year. All the patients have started going to school and have good quality of life,” said Dr Vijay Agrawal the , chief paediatric heart surgeon at the hospital.
But, there’s a catch
With the happy news come complaints of tedious procedures harrowing the families of the dead. The family of a 21-year old Mulund resident declared brain dead after a road accident said they spent five hours at a police station to get a no-objection certificate, which is a must to make the donation. “The police did not understand what brain death is. They kept asking us for the cause of death and the death certificate. They eventually understood, but doing the running around at a time when the family is grieving is painful,” said the donor’s brother.
ZTCC officials said they know there is a need to sensitise police officials and streamline the process to make donations easier for families.
In 2017, officials said they will work with the state government and Directorate of Health Services (DHS) to make the process easier.
“Dr Sujata Patwardhan, a former ZTCC member has prepared a four-page training module for police personnel to make them more aware while handling such situations and ensure the time taken on documentation is reduced. The Maharashtra police will add this module to their own training schedule so even new recruits are sensitised,” said Dr Gauri Rathod, the assistant director of the state health department and head of its organ transplant unit.
What does 2017 look like?
Officials from Directorate and Health Services said if targets are achieved as planned, Maharashtra will be recognised as a major organ transplant state. “Just because 2016 was good, it does not mean 2017 will be better. Awareness for organ donations has to continue,” Dr Agrawal said.
Officials said the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare initiative to coordinate and boost the organ donation cause across the nation, has released Rs63lakh to develop infrastructure and increase manpower.
“Maharashtra has become a leading state, reporting increasing organ transplants. Its government will plan awareness programmes not only for its own state, but also help Madhya Pradesh, Daman and Diu, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat,” said a top official from NOTTO.
State DHS officials said they are looking forward to develop more government-run organ retrieval and transplant centers so cadaver donations can take place at civil and district hospitals too. “We have been looking forward to a system where a civil surgeon of the hospital can inspect the facility and certify it, instead of getting approvals from the health department. More centres mean more donations across the state,” said Dr Rathod.
Dr Satish Pawar, director of DHS said a major step to decentralise the organ transplant procedure has been taken up already in the form of setting up four centers to divide the state in zones. This reduces the burden on Mumbai, which is currently the only city with heart transplant facilities.
“We are setting up centers at Aurangabad, Pune, Mumbai and Nagpur so heart transplant centres can provide concessional heart transplant facilities to people from all economic backgrounds. It will also bring down cost of airfare for air ambulances,” said Pawar. On several occasions, the private air ambulances have resulted in delay, causing either the organ to go waste or the prices to go up just before the departure, making the total cost of treatment go up to Rs25lakh.