Govt should focus on kidney care

A recent study in the reputed medical journal Lancet says that just around 10 per cent of
renal failure patients in developing countries, including India, manage to survive – with the help of dialysis. This is alarming. The 90 per cent, who die, have no recourse to treatment and some who do go in for dialysis discontinue after a few sittings as they cannot afford the cost of treatment. This is a sad commentary on the state of healthcare in a fast-developing country like India which would like to see itself as a major power in the next few years. The Lancet study should alert the government and healthcare officials to the gravity of the problem and immediately start the process of taking care of kidney failure patients. The state should institutionalise mechanisms to help in timely treatment and long-term care. This would mean that dialysis centres need to be set up across the country, equipped with sufficient machines and employing specialised personnel to take care of patients. 

Every year, in India, an estimated 2.25 lakh new kidney disease patients surface and the problem is burgeoning.  According to the study, India is among five nations with the highest incidents of death due to kidney failure. The other four are China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria where less than a quarter receive treatment for the disease. The Indian government, besides setting up dialysis centres, should also focus on spreading information about the various kidney diseases, why they fail and how that can be prevented. Funds need to be allocated for research into kidney disease and indigenous ways must be found to tackle the problem.

The situation, however, is not all bleak. There is the proverbial silver lining like the development of an indigenous membrane. According to media reports, this special membrane will reduce the cost of dialysis by 50 per cent. The government needs to keep track of this development and ensure it is available to patients when it is ready for use. The membrane, invented by scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, is claimed to reduce the time taken for dialysis by half and is reported to be safer for the patient. The new membrane, which is now at the stage of pre-clinical trials, has the potential to be a game-changer in dialysis care not only for India but also for the developing world. Another positive development is the reported expansion of the dialysis centre at the K R Hospital in Mysuru which has the potential to cater to large numbers of needy patients from the region, especially as the treatment is for free.

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