LAHORE: Pakistan and Turkey have tremendous potential for medical tourism as the two peoples can greatly benefit from each other’s expertise in health sector besides strengthening ties between the two brotherly Muslim countries.
“Turkey has the expertise and capability to offer treatment services for kidney and liver transplant and congenital heart diseases with highest success rate in the region,” said Prof Dr Ersin Erek, Cardiovascular Surgeon, and Prof Dr Remzi Emiroglu, Specialised Liver Transplant Surgeon, while exclusively talking to The News during their two-day visit to Lahore.
Two renowned doctors from Turkey's Acibadem hospitals, who provided free consultation to Pakistani patients of congenital heart defects (CHD) and liver diseases in special OPD sessions at a local hotel, believed that mutual cooperation in health sector can benefit common man. Both the doctors spent a full day with visitor patients and provided consultation on how patients can avail better treatment options available in Turkey.
Similarly, they said, Turkish patients can seek treatment from Pakistan in various fields of medical specialisation. “It will not just bring massive relief to the patients, but also bring foreign exchange, boost economy and cement brotherly ties between the two countries,” Turkish surgeons asserted.
Prof Dr Remzi Emiroglu, Director of the Transplant Programme at Acibadem Hospitals with specialisation in liver transplant, also examined the patients with liver issues and provided on spot consultation. He informed that Pakistan lacked facilities required to treat liver cancer; therefore, the patients were looking for the option of liver transplant available in other countries, including Turkey.
Out of 21 Acibadem Hospitals, the kidney and liver transplant was being done in three hospitals, including two in Istanbul and one in Bursa. Dr Remzi said that Acibadem Hospitals are well-equipped with all state-of-the-art treatment facilities and Pakistani patients can get treatment from Turkey with great satisfaction.
“Success rate of organ transplant in Turkey is above 90% which is more than Pakistan, China and India,” said the Turkish expert, adding that mostly the organ transplant was being done through living related donors. “Whereas organ transplantation was very expensive in South Korea, the success rate of transplant operations in Egypt, Iran, India and China was not encouraging. The reason being the lack of follow-up on the patient due to comparatively cheaper treatment cost, whereas Turkey was able to maintain the highest success rate of 90 to 92 percent for liver transplantation and up to 99 percent in all kidney transplant operations, thanks to regular follow-up on the patients,” he added.
In 2017, he said that Turkish doctors performed 160 liver transplants and over 300 kidney transplant surgeries. He said that Pakistani patients with liver disease need to maintain a healthy lifestyle along with proper and timely treatment. He said that the liver transplant might cost between $60,000 and $80,000, excluding travelling and out-of-hospital accommodation charges. Similarly, he said, the kidney transplant might cost between $20,000 and $25,000.
He said that Turkey doesn’t promote cadaveric organ transplants, saying that the doctors usually performed organ transplants from living related donors, but unrelated donors were also acceptable in certain cases after approval from the Ethical Committee on Organ Transplantation, where the recipient has to prove the acquaintance and free consent of the donor.
Prof Dr Ersin Erek, specialised in Pediatric Congenital Cardiac Surgery from Acibadem Hospitals, is convinced that congenital heart defects is a serious problem and Turkey has an extensive experience in successfully dealing with such cardiac issues and Pakistan can benefit from Turkish health expertise.
Prof Dr Ersin said at least 1 percent of global population was suffering from Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), and considering Pakistan’s population of over 200 million with 4 to 5 million babies born every year, there are 40,000 to 50,000 babies born with innate heart defects, who needed immediate surgical intervention to save their lives. “I’ve examined some child patients with heart defects today, some of them needed immediate surgery and others are already late in seeking surgical intervention,” he added. Explaining the causes of the disease, he said it was not a hereditary disease but the genetic factors might also contribute to cause of the disease.
He said that patients sometimes have limited knowledge and sources of treatment in Pakistan and then they can utilise the treatment facilities available in Turkey and other countries. He explained that treatment for heart related diseases are much more expensive in other countries as compared to Turkey where all top of the line medical facilities are equally available for every class of society. The surgical treatment for Congenital Heart Defects was being performed in two hospitals in Istanbul out of 21 Acibadem Hospitals.
He informed that Turkey carried the massive experience as doctors had been practicing treatment of CHDs since 1960, saying that Turkey was treating patients from neighbouring countries like Syria, Iraq and Azerbaijan. He said that treatment cost for Congenital Heart Defects depends on the type of the complication, adding however that it might cost between $10,000 and $20,000, excluding travelling and out-of-hospital accommodation charges.
Patients were mostly satisfied with the consultation services. After meeting Prof Dr Remzi Emiroglu, Mr Abdul Jabbar, who recently came back from Turkey after successful liver transplant, informed that he was quite happy to know that he can be treated and his disease is curable. He said he was worried as he wasn’t feeling comfortable about treatment from Pakistan, India or China. He opted for Turkey because he felt insecure from Indian attitude.
Another patient with a need of cardiac surgery, Ms Zareen Akhtar expressed her satisfaction saying that now she can think of living a healthier life again by getting a better treatment from Turkey. She said that Pakistan's government should focus more on providing better health facilities so that people who cannot afford going abroad for treatment can also benefit from the advancements of medical science. She said that people were suggesting India as an option but she feared that visa process could be hectic and in future if she required follow-up and meantime the Pak-India relation are in turmoil then she could face difficult situation.