Hospitals struggle to cope with kidney diseases

HARARE - Zimbabwean hospitals are struggling to cope with the surge in patients living with signs of chronic kidney disease, with the death toll rising.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa said hospitals were finding it difficult to provide enough beds and treatment for kidney patients, with the total number of cases increasing.

“Facilities are being created at provincial hospitals but those won’t work well until or unless we have the appropriate specialists to work in those areas, so our policy as a government is now to say at every provincial hospital we have to have at least five specialists, including those who will be able to look at these dialysis machines,” he told the World Kidney Day in Harare yesterday.

“So there is no point at times to have these machines where there is no specialty, where there is nobody to use them. So you might be able to work out a programme to put these specialists out there in the provinces.”

Currently, the ministry operates dialysis services at Chitungwiza Central Hospital, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Mpilo Central Hospital. And under the Zimbabwe-Chinese Equipment Loan deal, government is establishing facilities at Masvingo, Mutare, Gwanda, Marondera and Chinhoyi provincial hospitals.

Martin Odwee, a consultant physician or nephrologist at Parirenyatwa Hospital, said the renal unit he was operating at the hospital was understaffed, with only him and another nurse operating the unit.

There are 1 000 new cases of chronic kidney failure that are reported every year in Zimbabwe with only 700 cases on dialysis, leaving a huge gap of those in need failing to access to lifesaving services, according to the Health ministry.

World Health Organisation country representative David Okello said government should invest in specialist training to deal with the disease.

“We need also need to strengthen local infrastructure to deal with kidney diseases as well as allocation of funds for training programmes and training specialists dedicated to kidney conditions,” Okello said.

This comes as kidney treatments are expensive with patients having to fork out about $3 000 a month.

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