Kidney dialysis for state patients – a first for Namibia

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WINDHOEK, 01 February 2017 - Minister of Health and Social Services, Bernard Haufiku speaks during the opening of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Consultation on HIV Prevention and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for Adolescent Girls and Young Women. (Photo by: Joseph Nekaya) NAMPA

Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-Patients with chronic kidney disease will for the first time in the history of Namibia be dialysed at state facilities, when the first government-run renal dialysis units become available in July.

Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku announced at a press conference on Monday that Windhoek Central Hospital will have 16 renal dialysis units, Oshakati Intermediate Hospital 12 and Rundu Intermediate Hospital eight.

Keetmanshoop State Hospital, Walvis Bay State Hospital and Katima Mulilo State Hospital will be catered for next year, Haufiku said.

“This will bring tremendous relief to our patients and their families as they will be able to get this life-saving treatment nearer to home,” the health minister noted.

A dialysis machine is used to filter a patient’s blood to remove excess water and waste products when the kidneys are damaged. Dr Haufiku told New Era in January that there are at least 300 state patients with chronic kidney disease waiting to be put on dialysis.

Currently, there are no state dialysis centres, as a result, state patients have to use the private dialysis centres in Windhoek, Ongwediva and Swakopmund. Haufiku told New Era then that it was “very expensive” to put state patients on private dialysis, as the State has to pay N$3,000 for each patient.

Meanwhile, Tanja Basson, the business manager of the private Windhoek Dialysis Centre recently explained that there are 200 patients – both state and private – using their dialysis centres.

She said state patients are sent to their dialysis centre with support from the special fund of the health ministry.

In an interview with New Era yesterday, Basson said the state-owned renal dialysis units are a welcomed move, as many more state patients with kidney disease would be put on dialysis machines.

Currently, state patients with kidney disease who are on the dialysis units are those with acute kidney conditions. Basson explained that ten years ago, kidney patients were not using private dialysis, as is the case now.

“This means they were sent home,” said Basson, adding that there is more awareness on kidney disease in the general population. “With the renal units being introduced in state facilities more patients would be helped and there will be more awareness about the disease,” she said.

Basson in an earlier interview with New Era said uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes are the leading causes of kidney failure in Namibia.

Fredrich Batuang, who was diagnosed with kidney failure five years ago, said this would be a “very big relief” to kidney patients. “People travel from all over the country to come for dialysis here in Windhoek,” said Batuang, who is from Gobabis.

Kidney failure patients who are starting dialysis for the first time have to go for three hours three days a week and those who have been there longer go for four hours three times a week.

“People have to travel to Windhoek and some of them struggle with transport and arriving on time,” said Batuang, adding that some kidney failure patients end up not going for dialysis, because of this inconvenience.

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