Bengaluru: Every year, over 2,000 children require organ transplants in the country, but only 100 can afford it, which highlights the big requirement in the area. As transplants are expensive, parents and relatives find themselves at the crossroads for want of money with the sudden healthcare cost. Realising the growing need, Aster Hospital in the city has started a unique Integrated Liver Care Programme which takes the help of crowdfunding to raise funds. Also, the Pravin Aggarwal Fund matches every rupee raised.
“Relying only on media appeals was not helping many. Luckily, in 2015, we were able to put together a plan which was a matching scheme of raising money through crowdfunding. We also took the help of corporate social responsibility initiatives,” explained Dr Sonal Asthana, Senior HPB and Multiorgan Transplant Surgeon at the Aster Integrated Liver Care Programme. Dr Asthana and his team at the hospital perform the transplant.
He said, “With this four way matching system, the parents of the child requiring the transplant, the hospital, the crowdfunding platform and also the Pravin Aggarwal Fund are not under pressure." The programme, however, caters only to children below 18 years of age.
With this unique programme, the eligible family does not have to bear the huge cost of the transplant, but only a portion of it. “A transplant costs somewhere between Rs 15 and Rs 18 lakh and the family has to bear only Rs 2.45 lakh. Logically, we cannot reduce the cost of the procedure as it will affect the quality. We strive to reduce the amount that the patient has to pay and the rest is matched by the crowdfunding platform called Milaap, Pravin Aggarwal Fund and our hospital in terms of hugely subsidised treatment. The programme that started in April 2016 has seen some 30 successful transplants and majority of the beneficiaries are children below five years of age. Also, funding for three transplants is underway.”
He said, “This programme has helped families from disadvantaged backgrounds, like taxi drivers or small time agricultural labourers, who cannot afford such a cost burden," he added. The initiative has been acknowledged by other hospitals with a few already starting similar initiatives of their own.
He said, “Not everyone can apply. Most importantly, we make sure that the patient clinically needs a transplant. After we establish that a child is eligible for a transplant, we identify a donor and most of the time the child has a parent who is willing to be the donor and the only shortfall is the money. After that we start fundraising." But the fundraising happens after a detailed psychosocial assessment by a group of doctors at Aster.
According to Dr Sonal, raising money through crowdfunding platform is not tedious as people come forward to help. “On an average, within 7-10 days, we are able to raise the funds required and some 400-500 people contribute to every campaign and it is a collective effort," he added.