Hyderabad: The waiting list for organs like kidneys, livers, corneas and heart valves has lengthened to more than six months after the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Patients who had registered with Jeevandan, the government scheme, and with private hospitals face a long wait as it is difficult to carry out elective transplant procedures. According to the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research, only emergency cases where the patients are suffering from chronic failure of organs must be taken up.
Doctors are facing a challenge wherein brain dead patients are acquiring infections in the inte-nsive care unit. These infections are leading to COVID-19 in most cases, making it difficult to harvest organs. Those brain dead patients in facilities where infection control is upgr aded can facilitate organ harvesting but their numbers are very low.
Dr Ch. Madhusudhan, head of the department of surgical gastroenterology and liver specialist at Osmania General Hospital, stated “The risk factors in brain dead donors are also high. Since they are in intensive care units, it has been noted that they are acquiring Covid-19 and that makes it difficult to harvest the-ir organs. Those who are not infected by Covid, are very few. Infection control measures have been upgraded by all hospitals and we are only now, in the month of September, seeing a few cadaver donations.”
Live donation is a challenge and it requires a proper non-Covid 19 section to opt for these donations.
A senior doctor on condition of anonymity explained, “The donors’ health is at risk when they are called to hospitals for medical evaluation. Besides, the recipient is already in a compromised state and if infected with Covid-19, it is very difficult to save the patient”
He said it is a double-edged sword due to which live donations have stopped. Patients who are in the waiting list will have to wait for a longer time. “They have to be managed with medicines for some time more,” he said.
Patients are consulting doctors via tele-counselling. There is also a section of patients not responding to the follow-up as they have financial and other social constraints.
The Jeevandan programme noted zero donations in May and July. In April, there were three, June had 11 and August, 4. It is only in September that there have been 12 donations till date.
Dr G. Swarnalatha, associate professor at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, said, “We now have proper guidelines and also protocols in place for separate pathways for transplants. This will ensure that the donor and recipient both are safe. There is more clarity now on how to carry out non-COVID-19 procedures and that is helping us harvest organs from braindead patients.” “The programme has suffered during lockdown and post-lockdown and we are now taking up cases,” Dr Swarnalatha said.