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Feb 4, 2011

National hemodialysis program kicks off today

The government’s national hemodialysis program kicked off today with the opening of the K.H.M.H. and the La Loma Luz treatment units.  The launch has been long anticipated and the units took fifteen months put together.  It will make treatment affordable to a growing number of patients with chronic renal failure. The cost per session will be subsidized depending on the means of the patient. News Five’s Marion Ali was present for the opening of the unit at the K.H.M.H.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The symbolic cutting of the ribbon at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital’s new Hemodialysis Centre marked the official introduction of the long-awaited National Dialysis Programme. More symbolic will be the access that the poor will have to the life-saving treatment at a much more affordable cost.

Dr. Gary Longsworth, C.E.O., K.H.M.H.

“We’re going to ask the patients to pay a small co-payment per session.  There’s a range depending on the patient’s ability to pay.”

Marion Ali

“And that will be determined by?”

Dr. Gary Longsworth

“That will be determined by the social worker who will assess each patient and in ability to payment is not going to be a deterrent.  So we’re not going to refuse anybody treatment because of inability to pay, but we’re going to ask them to provide  small co-payment of between fifteen dollars to about eighty dollars, depending on their means, per session.  That’s a far cry from what they’re paying now.”

Those who will benefit from the service are those living with acute renal failure.  The programme will be subsidized by the government and the World Organization of Renal Therapies, or WORTH for short, and is the result of fifteen months of planning and investment.  The project came at a cost of two million Belize dollars to WORTH.  The organization’s President, Dr. Wayne Trebbin, says each of the four units in operation at the hospital will be in use twice a day for now.

Dr. Wayne Trebbin, President, WORTH

wayne trebbin

“It is a little heartbreaking that we can’t take care of everybody but we have limited resources.  Those patients who will be dialyzed by us will benefit from good, high technology. What the future holds, we don’t know. Will we be able to expand to take more patients?  I don’t know.  In terms of more units, I do think that eventually we will open a third shift each day, and who knows about a fourth shift.  It will depend on our staffing and things like that.”

Marion Ali

“Who qualifies to receive the treatment?”

Dr. Wayne Trebbin

“Patients who have chronic kidney disease, stage five, which is basically kidney disease that’s irreversible and not enough to sustain life.”

And speaking of sustaining, because dialysis and maintenance of the machines is so expensive, roughly about a million dollars a year, Dr Trebbin says that WORTH will subsidize the centre for five years, at best.

Dr. Wayne Trebbin

“WORTH is committed for three years with the possible extension for two more years, after which the units need to be self-sustaining.”

Marion Ali

“Now you said that after five years you will have to be self-sustainable.  Does that mean that the patient then will have to pay more?”

Dr. Gary Longsworth

Gary Longsworth

“No, actually we would like to maintain the subsidy, but we have to find ways to finance the programme.  Where do we get the money from?  Well, we’re looking at commercial dialysis – meaning that people who come in like visitors who come in, who may want to be dialyzed, people on holiday, tourists, people of means who are not in the programme, but who want to access the programme; we have to look down the road at that as a means of financing.  We also have to consider affordable sources of material and supplies (we would either have to source them) or we have to find a way to make our own dialyzate.  It’s not impossible to make our own dialyzate in Belize.”

But while the programme is a God-send for those who ordinarily cannot afford treatment, Doctor Gary Longsworth, in his speech, urged everyone to live healthy lifestyles and eliminate the need for the expensive treatment.

Dr. Gary Longsworth

“I would urge us as a society to take urgent steps to improve our quality of life through lifestyle changes, since avoidance of the need for dialysis can only benefit us all both individually and collectively as a people. Our health services must continue to promote and enhance screening for prevention of lifestyle diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, and must continually educate the public of the health risks posed by obesity, cigarettes, alcohol and drug abuse, to name a few.”

At today’s ceremony, the nurses and technical team who will administer the treatment were recognized for having shown dedication to their job, having sat the exams and passed the day after Hurricane Richard. Marion Ali for News Five.

The first three treatments were successfully administered at the K.H.M.H. dialysis centre on Thursday.  The dialysis centre at La Loma Luz Hospital is named after the late Jose Cruz, who was a renal patient who fought for the centers to become a reality.

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2 Responses for “National hemodialysis program kicks off today”

  1. belizeaninterest says:

    A job well done Jose Cruz. His voice is finally being heard. He fought for this so long and now that he is dead it happens. I can imagine seeing a smile on his face as I read this.

  2. rucelli says:

    This is great! lets just hope that the medications or chemicals needed to clean the patients blood are not watered down to make more money. It has been very sad to see a turn of events that shows there is more value to MONEY than a person’s Life.. And added to that the lack of personnel trained in this area.

    FOR ONCE LEAVE THE POLITICS OUT OF MEDICAL NEEDS.. SET ASIDE THE IGNORANCE AND GREEDINESS…

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