New Delhi: To make bone marrow transplants affordable, the Union government has planned to set up centres at its three hospitals in Delhi. To date, only AIIMS Delhi has a facility in the city and the treatment cost is exorbitant in private hospitals.
“If all goes well, the centres are likely to start soon at Safdarjung, RML and Lady Hardinge hospitals,” said a doctor, who recently attended a meeting at the office of Director General of Health Services. Another meeting on April 11 will finalise the modalities.
Officials said the maximum expenditure for a patient at these centres would be around Rs 2 lakh, mostly on medicines and diagnostic tests not available at the hospitals. The cost of transplant at private hospitals vary from Rs 12 to Rs 30 lakh as per donor type and source of stem cells.
According to a doctor at a private hospital, a haploidentical transplant, which uses healthy, blood-forming cells from a “half- matched” donor (family member) to replace the unhealthy ones, costs Rs 25-30 lakh, while a sibling transplant in which stem cells are donated by brother or sister costs Rs 12-14 lakh. With AIIMS being able to conduct 15 transplants every month, several patients wait for a long time as they can’t afford treatment at the private sector.
According to Indian Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, nearly 1,200 bone marrow transplants are conducted in Delhi-NCR, including at least 200 at AIIMS, every year, while the requirement is for 3,200 patients.
Dr Rahul Bhargava, director of haematology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute Gurgaon, who also attended the meeting, said he was ready to perform procedures at government hospitals for free and would train the staff simultaneously so that they themselves could later conduct them.
According to doctors, a patient receives healthy stem cells (blood-forming cells) to replace their own stem cells that have been destroyed by radiation treatment or high doses of chemotherapy. The healthy stem cells may come from the bone marrow of the patient or from a related or unrelated donor.
The medical superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital, Dr BL Sherwal, said, “We have the infrastructure and manpower, and the facility will soon start in the hospital.” The director of Lady Hardinge Medical College and associated hospitals, Dr Subhash Giri, also confirmed that an area had been identified to start the facility and logistics were being procured. “We hope to start the facility in the next few months,” he said. It will initially have two beds and will be increased to 6 later.
Philanthropist Suneel Kapoor, who has been helping such patients, said, “Several patients have been travelling from one hospital to another to get a transplant, but either due to financial constraint or long waiting list because of limited government facilities, they feel helpless.”