Make renal treatment accessible, affordable

HARARE - Health minister David Parirenyatwa’s recent revelation that over 1 000 cases of chronic kidney failure are being reported in Zimbabwe, with only 700 of these on dialysis, should make our government take this health challenge more seriously.

In line with the Zimbabwe government’s policy on the matter, dialysis centres are being set up at provincial hospitals.

To date these centres have been set up at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Mpilo and Chitungwiza Central hospitals.

Sadly, by the Health minister’s own admission, these dialysis centres are unacceptably understaffed and struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of patients with kidney ailments.

A case in point is Parirenyatwa Hospital where one consultant physician runs the renal unit with the assistance of a single nurse. This falls far short of the government policy which prescribes that provincial renal units must be manned by at least by five specialists.

Given the above, the government has no choice but to ensure the provincial renal units are not only adequately staffed but also offer services to ordinary Zimbabweans at affordable costs. As it stands, an increasing number of renal patients are finding it difficult to raise money for dialysis.

The cost for a dialysis session ranges from US$80 to US$170 in government hospitals and between $200 and $250 at private hospitals in Zimbabwe.

With a person with renal failure requiring an average of three dialysis sessions a week, it is clear this important medical service is out of reach for most Zimbabweans.

To complicate matters, people with renal ailments from across the country are currently being referred to either Bulawayo or Harare for treatment, a situation which exerts added financial pressure on the already over-burdened patients.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the government has to expedite the decentralisation of renal centres. At the very least, they must without delay fulfil their policy which requires every province to at least have a single renal centre.

While it might appear overly ambitious to talk about the issue of kidney transplants in a situation where the current government-run renal centres are failing to offer even the most basic services, it is a matter we must tackle head-on all the same.

At the moment, Zimbabweans are going to South Africa and India where they reportedly pay up to US$24 000 for a kidney transplant, excluding transport and accommodation. As such, it is important for government to make plans to invest in this area.

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