When Grenada joins other countries to celebrate World Kidney Day on March 10, five new dialysis machines are expected to commence operations at the General Hospital.
This was announced at the post Cabinet press briefing on Tuesday (Feb 15) by Permanent Secretary responsible for Hospital and Community Health Services Hanna St Paul, during which it was revealed operations will take place on a phased basis.
Noting the plan for the new machines and trained health care staff to manage and operate the Renal Replacement Services Unit commenced in 2020 but were delayed by the pandemic, St Paul said all that remains to complete before the launch is the furniture. The medical equipment is in place, a nephrologist, nephrologist nurses and certified renal dietician are on staff, along with the clinical staff or bio-medical team members trained in servicing the machines. As well, ongoing training is offered to other medical and nursing staff at the General Hospital.
Pointing out that not every patient who is currently “being dialysed” will have access to this public health service, fees are expected to be determined “by the end of this week,” according to the permanent secretary.
The unknown fee structure has three categories: people who can pay for the service through their health insurance; people who do not have health insurance but can afford to pay for the service: and people who are unemployed, earn less than $1,500 per month or are recipients of the Support for Education, Empowerment and Development (SEED) programme.
Initially, the unit will provide the service to two patients for four weeks on each of the five machines; then an assessment will be undertaken. After the assessment more patients will be added to the service.
“This is a new service and there are a lot of technicalities as it relates to dialysis,” she cautioned. The review, assessment and addition of patients will continue until a maximum of 30 patients are receiving the dialysis service.
The Replacement Services Unit is focussed on prevention through a holistic approach to renal health, as many people develop diabetes and other non-communicable diseases because of poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
Minister of Health and Social Security Hon Nicholas Steele said government is looking at ways to provide the service at other hospitals, as it is in possession of back-up machines.
“The issue is not the machines. The issue is to make sure the quality, observation and support, nephrology support, to the patients. That will dictate if and when we can move to Saint Andrew or Carriacou to also offer dialysis services there,” he said.
Diabetes was identified in 2019 by the Pan American Health Organisation diabetes as the sixth leading cause of death in the Americas in 2019, with an estimated 244,084 deaths directly caused by diabetes.
Moreover PAHO reported that “the prevalence of overweight in the Americas was almost double that observed worldwide. Among adolescents in the Americas, 80.7% are insufficiently active,” and like Grenadian officials points to “a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use are ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.”