Dialysis patients should not be left behind amidst pandemic, experts say

Kidney specialists from the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) underscore that patients with chronic kidney diseases (CKD), especially those undergoing dialysis treatment, should not be neglected in the time of COVID-19.

Considered as part of the vulnerable sector, patients who have CKD need support in maintaining their health amidst the community quarantine.

Dr. Russell Villanueva, a Fellow of the PCP and the Philippine Society of Nephrology (PSN) and training officer at Department of Nephrology of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) says that the pandemic has brought plight to dialysis patients and their family members.

“This became a problem for many countries because there were dialysis centers which stopped operations due to limited staff and fear in getting infected by COVID-19,” he explains. “The patients are the one who suffer.”

Aside from this, patients and their family members are having a hard time going to and from their dialysis centers due to lack of public transportation.

While some local government units (LGUs) offer aid for transportation, some are left with limited options such as walking for hours or biking under the scorching heat, which makes patients weary even before they start their sessions.

Dr. Villanueva stresses the importance of continuous dialysis treatment amidst the health crisis and take necessary precautions as recommended by their healthcare team.

He encourages dialysis centers to maintain their operations as their way of showing support for patients. If not, they need to refer their patients to other centers so they will not have to miss their sessions.

It is also vital for healthcare providers to give guidelines to patients and their caregivers in times when they have no option but to skip sessions.

“We should also give them guidelines. There are patients who undergo treatment thrice a week but due to limited staff, some only have to go twice a week.  We need to give them guidelines to limit water intake and food consumption to manage their blood pressure.”

Now more than ever, people with kidney disease and other severe chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are at higher risk for more severe illness such as COVID-19.

It is imperative to protect their immune system in this crisis, while providing preventive measures against COVID-19.

According to the Philippine Renal Registry, there is an increase in cases of people undergoing dialysis from 2014 to 2016. In 2006, there are over 7, 000 patients undergoing dialysis. The number then ballooned to more than 36, ooo patients in 2016.

“There is an increase in the number of dialysis patients in just a span of ten years and we are expecting that this would increase by an average of 10-15 percent per year,” Dr. Villanueva says.

National Kidney Month

Meanwhile, Dr. Gingerlita Samonte, a Fellow of the PCP and a Board of Trustee of the PSN, encourages patients and their family members to participate in this year’s National Kidney Month celebration on June 28.

“Even amidst pandemic, we should always promote good health for everyone, especially the prevention of kidney disease,” Dr. Samonte says, adding that dealing with kidney diseases is not a one-man battle but a family affair.

With the theme “Malusog na Bato sa Panahon ng Pandemya,” the celebration will be held online and shall gather participants from different PSN chapters. Online activities include mass, lay lectures and Q&A portion, raffle draws, and photo and video contests.

The National Kidney Month celebration will be viewed thru PSN’s Facebook page on June 28.

To view the PCP and PSN Health Forum Video, please see this link: https://bit.ly/2TGR6Kt. For more information, visit the PCP official page thru: https://www.pcp.org.ph/

Gelyka Dumaraos

Gel is a writer and wanderer from the Philippines. She maintains this blog, Musings and Pathways, as a platform for her thoughts on love and life and stories of places and people she meets while on the road. Aside from writing and being a freelance media consultant, she is recently into baking and cooking. Gel lives with her fiance in a humble, work-in-progress abode in the beautiful province of Rizal. Email her at gelykaruthdumaraos@gmail.com.

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