Despite an ongoing national campaign promoting organ donation, Punjab has no government facility to harvest organs, not even in cases where these have been donated or are available from brain-dead patients.
The state government also has no facility to transplant organs. Its three medical colleges -- located in Amritsar, Patiala and Faridkot -- are only carrying out basic corneal transplant surgeries which come under the category of tissue transplant. For the transplant of organs, including kidney and liver, a patient has to approach private hospitals across the state or go to the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.
The 19 authorised private hospitals in Punjab which are involved in kidney and liver transplant don’t have authorisation to harvest organs available through donation or brain-dead people and store these for transplants.
The state government is also clueless about the total demand of vital organs and their availability, with no records maintained by the directorates of health services (DHS) or medical education and research (DRME). The state has no centralised record of how many transplants are taking place annually at the 19 private hospitals.
The government, which has powers under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, has failed to regulate the working of private hospitals involved in organ transplant. A number of illegal kidney transplants by the Jalandhar-based National Kidney Hospital are already under investigation.
In a belated move, the DRME recently shot off a letter to the 19 private hospitals transplanting organs, stating that 17 of them have to send every proposed transplant case for approval to the district authorisation committees under the three state government medical colleges. Two hospitals—which are conducting a total of more than 25 transplant surgeries annually—have been authorised to get their cases approved by a hospital-level authorisation committee in accordance with the Act.
According to Hussan Lal, secretary, medical education and research, Punjab, the scenario is bound to change once Punjab adopts the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues (Amendment) Act, 2011. The state cabinet had approved its adoption in December 2015 and the matter will be placed before the assembly whenever it meets next.
He added that the state government would start super-specialty services needed for carrying out kidney transplants at medical colleges in Patiala and Amritsar. “But it is likely to take at least a year for these services to commence,” he said.