Kolkata: The state health department has granted the Calcutta Medical College Hospital (CMCH) licence to conduct heart transplant operations, making it the first state-run and fourth city hospital where the complex procedure can be carried out.
Of the remaining three, a heart transplant—the first in the city—was done at Fortis Hospital Anandapur last month. Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) and BM Birla are the others that have the licence.
SSKM is the only other state-run hospital that has licence for kidney and liver transplants. Incidentally, the cardiothoracic department at SSKM was also gearing up to apply for heart transplant but CMCH beat it to the line.
Confirming the grant of licence, state nodal officer for organ transplants Aditi Kishore Sarkar said the recognition would pave the way for more heart transplants as the patient count at government hospitals is many times that of a private hospital.
"We had carried out a preliminary inspection of the facilities and had made some recommendations. On Thursday, we did another inspection of the cardiovascular facility and found the recommendations had been complied," Sarkar said.
On February 21, SSKM had declared 21-year-old engineering student Dipshikha Samanta brain-dead, after which her family donated her organs. Her kidneys were transplanted to two renal failure patients at SSKM itself, and her skin and cornea were also donated. But even as doctors found her heart in good condition, it could not be retrieved as her family wanted it to be transplanted to a patient at a government hospital. At the time, no government hospital in the state had the facility. With CMCH now permitted to carry out heart transplant, doctors hope another heart won’t be wasted.
The episode also stirred SSKM into action. The OT was upgraded and a heart-transplant team has been put in place. Sources said the hospital would apply for the licence soon. Three private hospitals—Apollo Gleneagles, Medica Superspeciality and AMRI Dhakuria—have already applied for it and are waiting for inspection.
Deceased organ donation activist VM Swamy welcomed the addition of CMCH to the list of transplant facilities. "Till now, heart transplant was available only in private hospital that is the preserve of the affluent. With a government hospital now on board, even the economically stressed can look forward to it. This is a milestone for Kolkata and a leap forward for organ transplant movement," said Swamy.
What is needed next, feel doctors connected with transplants, is a momentum in organ donation. Unlike a kidney where the organ can be obtained from a living donor, a heart has to come from a brain-dead patient.
Cardiac surgeons and transplant experts in Kolkata want the health department to push for mandatory declaration of brain death at trauma care units so that more organs are available. Mumbai has seen more than 150 heart transplants over the last 5-6 years. It has helped to make the procedure popular and encouraged doctors to offer it as an option to patients.