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First living donor liver transplant at Brunei likely in early 2019

The Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) and the Yashoda Hospitals of India will be establishing a living donor liver transplant facility in Brunei Darussalam, with the first liver transplant expected to take place in the first quarter of 2019.

In addition, the partnership will also pave the way for ultimately building a local team of doctors and nurses, who are capable of carrying out the delicate procedure of liver transplant through the transfer of medical knowledge and technologies.

Details of the transplant facility were shared in a press conference on 12th December 2018 by COO of JPMC Varghese Paulose, Medical Director of JPMC Kaber Meera Saheeb, Director of Liver Transplant at the Yashoda Institute of Liver Transplant and Hepatobiliary Diseases Dr (Prof) Balachandran Menon and General Manager of International Services at Yashoda Hospital Santosh Kumar Sahoo.

Based on the inputs shared, the two medical centers are finalizing the terms and conditions on establishing some guidelines for recipients and donors.

“With the help of the Ministry of Health and Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji MohdIsham bin Haji Jaafar, as well as the Brunei Government, hopefully by end of this year, we can finish all the guidelines and we are aiming to carry out a liver transplant by the first quarter of next year.”

Saheeb added, “Currently, Brunei Darussalam is sending its patient overseas for surgery (three cases per year). The cost for Yashoda Hospital is around 50 percent of the overseas surgery cost.

“It is always better to have the surgery done in Brunei for Bruneians; this will help the patient recover smoothly through family members’ moral support.”

He said, “We expect (donors and recipients) to come from abroad to help lift Brunei into the top 10 medical tourism destinations.”

Paulose added, “In the field of medical tourism, we are just starting this new development. With this new collaboration and a dedicated team, we are getting international quality care in the country with a reasonable price, as Yashoda Hospital is one of the leading institutions for organ transplant – not only for liver transplants but also renal transplants. They are well-established with a regional and world reputation in transplants; they have engaged in Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.”

He also highlighted that the idea behind the cooperation is to transfer knowledge within the next five years, in order to build a local talented team to carry out the procedure.

Santosh Kumar Sahoo added, “This is mainly to share the technology in the field of transplants and intensive care involving Bruneian doctors and nurses.”

In Brunei, the organ donor must be close family members. Candidates for liver transplants are determined by examining and analyzing each patient’s medical record conditions and characteristics.

Patients can receive a portion of the liver from family members. The donor’s remaining liver regenerates, allowing for the donor to lead a normal and healthy life without risks. The donor and recipient must be of similar build with compatible blood types, and donation is determined after an examination.

Dr (Prof) Menon explained, “The programme will always start slowly and the first case is always very difficult. It will always be a slow start, and I don’t expect 10 cases in the first year. It will only start picking up in the third and fourth year. As its reputation spreads, the programme will pick up.”

On Yashoda Hospital, he said, “We are well known for liver transplant surgery. We have tied up with JPMC to offer our services for liver and hesperidin surgeries.

“In a liver transplant, a relative donates half a liver to the patient. The patient will get a new life to become a normal person within three to four months. For someone who is literally dying, they can get a new life.”

Santosh also pointed out the advantage of getting the surgery done at JPMC, saying, “In ASEAN, we find that Brunei is strategically located and strategically advantageous. We can promote medical tourism by attracting patients from neighboring countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia. The unique selling point is that we can offer world-class medical care at a pocket-friendly cost where many people will benefit. Our transplant will be one third the cost of other countries.

“Our main objective is to place Brunei Darussalam on the global medical tourism map through this new partnership. The joint venture also involves the Ministry of Health and we would like to thank the Minister of Health for supporting this initiative.”

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