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GMCH Must Be Equipped For All Organ Transplants

Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has ordered an inquiry into the lapses that led to the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) missing out on receiving the kidneys from the cadaveric organ retrieval procedure from a brain dead person. The inquiry is aimed at knowing the gaps the health department needs to bridge to ensure that organs harvested in the state are used for transplant on Goan patients. The six-member committee of inquiry headed by additional secretary, health and including five doctors from different disciplines is expected to submit its report by Friday. That speaks of the urgency with which the Health Minister has taken note of the report published in this newspaper about the Goan patients being denied transplant for harvested kidneys.

The inquiry committee has to find out the reasons why the retrieved kidneys were not made available to Goan patients and sent to Mumbai. The government needs to fix the responsibility for the lapses to prevent any such indifference in the future. It has been learnt that the kidney transplant team of the GMCH had kept itself ready to carry out the procedure and even written an official letter to the dean informing him of their preparedness, but no efforts were made to get the retrieved organs to the GMCH. It is also necessary to find out whether the required protocol was followed in the retrieval process of organs and why the claims of the GMCH were ignored. The public also needs to know if there was any nexus involved in denying the Goans their claim to the harvested organs. The inquiry committee must find out why the State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation has not been made functional despite it having been approved by National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation three months ago. It is also necessary to find out whether the doctor appointed as transplant coordinator has the required qualifications to man the job and whether he took the necessary steps required for getting the kidneys that were harvested and were finally sent to Mumbai. While the past cannot be undone, the government should take corrective steps to ensure that in future the organs are retrieved as per the laid-down process and the state gets the first right over them to use them for the benefit of Goans.

It was not only kidneys. It was also the cornea. Goan patients have also been missing out on cornea transplants. If the retrieved organs had been allotted to the GMCH, four Goans could have benefitted and got a new lease of life and vision. The health department has to take proactive measures to provide all the facilities needed in the GMCH for seamless kidney and cornea transplants. Though kidney transplants are being carried out in the GMCH, it still does not have any HLA tissue typing and lymphocyte cross matching instruments. The two instruments are necessary for carrying out the process faster. Availability of these instruments in the GMCH would help the patients, their relatives as well as doctors to save precious time and money. In the absence of these instruments, the samples have to be taken to Mumbai for matching. The health department must provide funds for the purchase of these instruments at the earliest as they are not very costly. The cornea transplant unit at the GMCH too has to be made fully functional; whatever machinery and staff are needed for that should be provided. The GMCH has facilities to carry out kidney and cornea transplants. The Health Minister must make special efforts to establish the facilities for making transplant of other organs also possible at the GMCH so that the organs donated by people could be put to use on the people of the state.

Though several facilities have been added to the GMCH over the years, the health department needs to upgrade those facilities in order to raise the standards of one of the oldest medical college hospitals in the country. The GMCH has never been lacking in talent and expertise, although it is also equally true that in positions here and there have been appointments that have not been very deserving, a factor that often drags down the collective spirit of advancement. The other constraint has been the absence of necessary infrastructure. Perhaps now that the Health Minister is looking at the GMCH closely, let us hope he would take steps to encourage research work in the GMCH. He could make available newer specialities available at the GMCH to help Goans get specialized care in the state. Funds for creating facilities and upgrading the existing facilities could turn the GMCH truly into a centre of excellence in medicine.

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