The Kaohsiung branch of Chang-gung Hospital completed a liver transplant operation for a Pakistani patient on Jan. 22, the first instance of a live liver transplant operation performed in this country on the citizen of a country that is not diplomatically friendly with Taiwan.
Since 1998, Kaohsiung Chang-gung Hospital has performed liver transplants on foreign nationals from Japan, South Africa, the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries. But in all 19 cases, the patient came from a country that was friendly to Taiwan.
In September, a Pakistani patient sought help from Kaohsiung Chang-gung requesting a live liver transplant.
Unfortunately, Taiwan's representative office in Saudi Arabia did not grant him a visa, saying that Pakistan is politically unfriendly toward Taiwan.
Even though a visa was eventually granted on humanitarian grounds, the man died before he could make the trip.
Another Pakistani, identified as Khawaja, sent a message to the hospital on Nov. 12 saying he required a liver transplant.
Khawaja had been visiting Singapore for medical care, but doctors there were unable to make any headway in his case.
Khawaja was granted a visa and entered Taiwan on Jan. 14.
Khawaja was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and cirrhosis in 2004. He needed a liver transplant to survive. After a 10-hour operation, he received a portion of his son's liver.
Both patients were doing well after the operation.
Khawaja's wife told the press that a lot of patients suffer from cirrhosis and liver cancer in Pakistan and that many would come to Taiwan to receive a transplant if it became easier to obtain a visa.
In comparison to Singapore, which granted Khawaja's visa request in three hours and allowed him to stay for a year, it took him 20 days to get a Taiwanese visa that allows him to stay for a total of 60 days and leave the country just once during that period.
The superintendent of Kao-hsiung's Chang-gung Hospital, Chen Tsao-long (陳肇隆) said that time is of the essence when people seek overseas medical help.
The quality of medical care is high in Taiwan and costs are low, Chen said.
For instance, Kaohsiung Chang-gung has the highest five-year survival rate for liver transplants in the world, he said.
However, the cost of a liver transplant operation is only NT$1.5 million to NT$2 million compared to NT$6 million in Singapore or NT$8 million in the US.
Providing this country's medical services to patients around the world could be lucrative if the visa application process were simplified, he said.
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