Country launches living donor kidney transplant service

The first living donor kidney transplant in the country was conducted successfully today. The surgery was conducted jointly by Thai and Bhutanese doctors and nurses at the National Referral Hospital in the capital. The renal transplant service is expected to save the government millions of ngultrum in expenses as patients will not have to be referred abroad anymore.

The surgery started at around 10 a.m. and took almost five hours to complete.

The first patient to undergo renal transplant surgery in the country is a 34-year-old woman with a 26-year-old female donor.

The prime minister after inaugurating the launch of the historical event, also joined in the surgery as one of the surgical team members.

Dr Sonam Dargay, who is leading the Bhutanese team, shared that the Bhutanese health sector has been preparing for years for this project.

“The kidney transplant which is happening today was initiated in 2017 by the Prime Minister when he was a urologist. Somehow, because of COVID-19 and some other reasons, it couldn’t kick off that time. So, today, finally we are having the transplant. The Thai team from Rajavithi Hospital led by Dr Vorapot consists of urologists, anesthesiologists, nephrologists and scrub nurses.”

“We started with teleconferences in April and in August. After that, we invited the Bhutan team to visit our hospital for one week to have a lecture. To see the real care in the operation theatre and learn about the setting, the kidney transplantation, the ward, the ICU and the equipment. And after that, we brought our team to Bhutan to do the first care,” said Dr Vorapot Choonklai, the chief of the urology division of Rajavithi Hospital.

Dr Sonam Dargay says the government spends around Nu 1.5 M on each patient sent abroad for such a surgery.

He added that the national referral hospital sends 12 to 15 patients abroad for renal transplants every year.

According to data from the Bhutan Kidney Foundation, there are about 140 living patients who have undergone kidney transplants with the help of the government so far.

The team of Thai and Bhutanese doctors and nurses will be carrying out another surgery tomorrow.

The national referral hospital plans to gradually be able to carry out the surgeries on their own.

Singye Dema

Edited by Yeshi Gyaltshen

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