Kudos to the Namibian govt for taking lead in kidney care

Apr 28, 2017
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By Lahja Nashuuta

I WOULD like to commend the Namibian government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Services, for its decision to introduce kidney failure treatment at public health facilities.

Health Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku in March revealed the decision to install 36 renal dialysis units at state hospitals by July 2017. According to the minister, 16 units will be installed at the Windhoek Central Hospital in Khomas region, 12 units at Oshakati Intermediate Hospital in Oshana region and Rundu State Hospital in Kavango East will get eight units.

Thereafter, the ministry plans to introduce more lifesaving renal dialysis at Keetmanshoop (Hardap region), Walvis Bay (Erongo region) and Katima Mulilo in Zambezi region.

Renal dialysis machines are responsible for mixing and monitor the dialysate, a fluid that helps remove the unwanted waste products from your blood. It also helps get your electrolytes and minerals to their proper levels in your body. The machine also monitors the flow of your blood.

This is the first time dialysis units will be operational at state hospitals in the country. And Namibia will probably be among the few countries in Africa to introduce free kidney care services.

Minister Haufiku explained: “This will bring a tremendous relief to our patients and their families as they will be able to get this life-saving treatment near to home.”The Ministry of Health and Social Services noted that high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes are the major contributing factors to end-stage kidney failure in Namibia.

By the end of 2016, over 300 Namibians were receiving chronic kidney dialysis treatment while awaiting kidney transplants from possible donors, Dr Ismael Katjitae, a physician dealing with kidney care at Roman Catholic Hospital told a local newspaper recently.

Currently, kidney care centres are only available at private hospitals in Windhoek, Ongwediva and Swakopmund. And private kidney failure treatment does not come cheap.

Minister Haufiku has also expressed his concern about the high cost of kidney disease treatment. A dialysis session cost R3,000 at private hospitals, patients with kidney failures need on average three weekly sessions of four hours on dialysis.

The World Health Organisation says every year, thousands of end stage kidney failures patients desperately need the treatment to prolong their lives. Dialysis treatment for a kidney patient costs R100,000 a year in South Africa, which could be the same in Namibia.

But with affordable care, people with kidney problems can live for many years. Only those with medical aid schemes – which are also unaffordable to the majority of Namibians – can afford proper care.

A five year study conducted by health experts at universities in Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa, Senegal and Switzerland confirmed that access to dialysis for end-stage kidney disease in Sub-Sahara Africa is limited by insufficient infrastructure and catastrophic out-of-pocket costs.

They said most patients remain undiagnosed, untreated, and die.

“We did a systematic literature review to assess outcomes of patients who reach dialysis and the quality of dialysis received.

“Once the kidneys fail renal replacement therapy by dialysis or transplantation is the only means of survival. Findings from studies in the past 5 years have suggested that between 2,3 million and 3,2 million people die yearly as a result of no access to dialysis,” they said in a study published in the April 2017 edition of The Lancent Global Health – an online health journal.

Therefore the installation of renal dialysis units is not just a welcomed move because of the fact that it will cut government expenditure but it is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 3 that calls for countries to ensure healthy lives and promotes wellbeing for all at all ages.

But before I sign off, here is a word of caution: we will soon have access to kidney care at public hospitals, but we continue to be mindful of our lifestyle choices – that are the root causes of chronic diseases like high blood pressure that eventually leads to kidney troubles.

Therefore, we need to shun our poor lifestyle choices including smoking, poor diet, and too much alcohol.

We also need to take part in physical activities, because excising relieves us from chronic stress and prevent obesity.

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