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Duterte eyes NKTI for liver transplant

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President Rodrigo Duterte has wanted the state-run National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) to lead the medical operations for patients battling with liver disease, Malacañang said on Friday.

Duterte made the pronouncement as he observed the surge in children who are suffering from liver disease and need surgical operations, Malacañang said in a press statement.

The President expressed confidence that doctors at the NKTI have the competence and expertise to perform liver transplants.

“To address the growing list of children with liver disease needing transplantation or surgical procedure, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants to capacitate the National Kidney Transplant Institute to do such medical operations here rather than allowing patients to go abroad to seek treatment,” the Palace said.

“One of the reasons why the President wants the transplantation [to] be conducted in the country is because the patient could receive better pre- and post-operative care in the Philippines and many government agencies could provide support,” it added.

The NKTI, a tertiary specialty center attached to the Health department, is mandated to specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, rehabilitation, and treatment of kidney and allied diseases through dialysis and transplantation.

The NKTI also focuses on service, training, and research in the field of renal diseases and organ transplantation.

The President floated the idea of tapping NKTI as the lead government hospital to perform liver transplants when he met Wednesday with Ronald Naval and Kendy Aguilo, parents of two-year-old Sophie who is a biliary atresia patient.

Malacañang, however, did not disclose where the meeting took place.

Biliary atresia is a condition in infants in which the bile ducts outside and inside the liver are scarred and blocked, preventing bile to flow into the intestine, letting it damage the liver. The damage leads to scarring, loss of liver tissue and function, and cirrhosis.

Sophie’s parents want their daughter to undergo the operation in India because the procedure there would cost less, but the President urged them to allow the liver transplant to be done in the Philippines, the Palace said.

“He asked Sophie’s parents to trust the expertise of the doctors at the NKTI, noting they are equally capable of successfully doing such procedure in the country at par with their counterparts overseas,” it added.

Duterte also recalled giving financial assistance to the parents of 11-month-old Eren Crisologo from Cagayan de Oro City who underwent an operation in India.

Duterte, the Palace said, told Sophie’s parents about the case of Crisologo who died after the liver transplant.

The President assured Sophie’s parents that they would also receive financial assistance if they heed his request.

He also told them that they could monitor Sophie’s condition and the result of the medical procedure, if the operation is done in the Philippines.

“Subukan natin dito. Ako, naniniwa ako. Hindi ako nambabarat — may pera at tutulong ako (Let’s try here. I believe doctors in our country are competent. I have money and I will help),” he was quoted as saying.

Duterte’s former special aide, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, sought the improvement of NKTI’s capacity.

Go, who authored the recently-signed Malasakit Center Act, said the government is considering building a consortium between the President’s office, the Health department, the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) and The Medical City (TMC) to pool together the government and private funds.

The money will then be transferred to TMC through PCMC.

The short-term solution, Go said, is that pediatric liver transplantation will be done through the partnership of PCMC and TMC until NKTI can solely perform pediatric and adult living donor liver transplantation.

The estimated cost for every patient with liver disease will be PHP3.6 million, the senator said.

Go, meanwhile, noted that the long-term solution is to send a 12-man team of NKTI specialists to Taiwan for training.

The senator also sought to develop NKTI facilities by procuring new medic equipment to enable it to perform a pediatric liver transplant.

“Senator Go said that after the two months of training, there will be a number of specialists who can conduct the operation in the country, noting the government will only need to acquire the necessary equipment for the operation,” Malacañang said. (PNA)

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