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World Kidney Day takes place tomorrow, 11 March, and is themed ‘Kidney Health for Everyone, Everywhere – Living Well with Kidney Disease’.
To mark the day, the HSE National Renal Office (NRO) is highlighting the supports it has put in place for renal patients through the enhanced provision of home dialysis therapy, which has helped keep them safe from Covid-19.
The HSE NRO responded to the pandemic to protect patients with severe kidney disease – who are considered to be very high-risk – by developing and implementing a range of new Covid protocols. These protocols include enhanced patient transport and upgraded infections control policies.
Prof George Mellotte, HSE National Clinical for Lead Renal Services, commented: “During the pandemic renal services had to respond quickly. We adapted by creating new ways to help avoid hospital-based dialysis where possible and also to protect patients who could only receive their dialysis in hospital settings.
“By engaging with internal HSE stakeholders, we ensured that dialysis patients, kidney transplant patients and patients with end stage kidney failure are now included in Group 4 on the Covid-19 priority vaccination list with vaccinations due to commence shortly.
“Significant investment in home dialysis therapy meant the number of new patients opting to choose home dialysis therapy increased by 10. This means these patients avoid unnecessary travelling to and from hospital for treatment and the risk of exposure to Covid 19 in a hospital setting. This reduced the number of patient hospital visits by 3,700 nationally in 2020.
“For our patients, home dialysis has improved their quality of life while providing patients with flexibility and more control over their own care and also protected them during the pandemic.”
Due to these measures implemented by the NRO, a “very low number” of home dialysis patients contracted Covid 19 since the outbreak of the pandemic with no fatalities among this cohort.
A new dialysis facility called the Varty Unit opened in Tallaght University Hospital during the pandemic. The unit will provide a “patient centred environment in a state-of-the-art facility” for patients receiving their treatment.
Kidney disease can be a huge challenge, both for the patient and those people around them. This diagnosis and its management, particularly in advanced stages, impacts severely upon the patient’s life by reducing their, and that of family and friends, ability to participate in everyday activities like work, travel and socialising whilst causing numerous problematic side-effects – eg, fatigue, pain, depression, cognitive impairment, gastrointestinal problems and sleep problems.
In Ireland, 400,000 people are at risk of kidney disease. It is projected to become the fifth leading cause of premature death globally by 2040. One in eight people aged over 50 in Ireland have chronic kidney disease.
The condition is easily detected through a simple blood test by a GP. It is also preventable with interventions which include early check-ups, blood pressure medication and blood sugar control.
The NRO has provided patient orientated medical information relevant for renal patients, on Covid-19, at hse.ie.