To address the growing list of children with liver disease needing transplantation or surgical procedure, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said he wants to capacitate the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) to do such medical operations here rather than allowing patients to go abroad to seek treatment.
On Wednesday, President Duterte met with the parents of two-year old Sophie Aguilo, a Biliary Atresia patient, urging them to allow their child’s transplantation to be done in the country.
Biliary atresia is a condition in infants in which the bile ducts outside and inside the liver are scarred and blocked. Bile can’t flow into the intestine, so bile builds up in the liver and damages it. The damage leads to scarring, loss of liver tissue and function, and cirrhosis.
Sophie’s parents want their child to undergo the operation in India, where the medical procedure would cost less.
The Chief Executive told Ronald Naval and Kendy Aguilo, Sophie’s parents, that he wants the transplantation be conducted in the country, the first such procedure to be done in the Philippines.
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.
“Subukan natin dito. Ako naniniwala ako. Hindi ako nambabarat—may pera at tutulong ako,” the President told the parents, vowing to support Sophie’s financial needs.
The President recalled a similar case of Biliary Atresia in Cagayan de Oro City, after a soldier asked for help so his 11-month old daughter could undergo an operation in India.
President Duterte facilitated the family’s trip to India for the baby’s liver transplantation procedure. Unfortunately, the baby died after the operation.
One of the reasons why the President wants the transplantation 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.
If the operation is done in the Philippines, Sophie’s parents could monitor progress of her operation, particularly her condition and the result of the medical procedure.
President Duterte and Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said that the administration’s Malasakit Program will ensure Sophie’s and other patients’ overall welfare, particularly their pre- and post-operative care.
Senator Go, who authored the recently-signed Malasakit Center Act, also said that improving the capacity of the NKTI will lessen the burden of the families of those who are in urgent need of transplantation. He added that he has personally seen parents literally begging so they can bring their children abroad and fund the operation.
Short-term and long-term solutions
Because of the growing number of children needing liver transplantation, the government has started an initiative to look for both short-term and long-term solutions. Senator Go, the President’s former aide, met with concerned agencies to address the issue.
One of the short-term solutions is to build a consortium between the Office of the President (OP), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) and The Medical City (TMC), which will pool together government as well as private funds. The money will then be transferred to TMC through PCMC.
Pediatric liver transplantation, before, during and after operation, will be done through the partnership of PCMC and TMC until the time when NKTI can solely perform pediatric and adult living donor liver transplantation. The estimated cost for every patient will be P3.6 million.
A long-term solution, on the other hand, is to send a team of NKTI specialists, composed of 12 personnel, to undergo training in Taiwan and capacitate NKTI through the acquisition of equipment. The NKTI facilities will be developed to enable it to perform pediatric liver transplantation procedures.
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. PND