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Surgical masks for haemodialysis patients ‘helped reduce Covid-19 infection’

The National Renal Office (NRO) has said the supply of surgical masks to haemodialysis patients – worn from when they were collected for their treatment until they returned home – helped reduce Covid-19 infection alongside other measures.

Sadly, the NRO reported that 31 patients in the end-stage kidney disease population have died due to Covid-19 to date. These fatalities related to 27 haemodialysis and four transplant patients.

According to information supplied by the NRO to the Irish Kidney Association, the number of Covid-19 cases in this population was rising significantly by approximately 20 patients per week throughout March and early April.

“In light of these concerns, the National Renal Office changed its guidance and with the support of HSE procurement supplied all haemodialysis patients with surgical masks to be worn. These were distributed during the second week of April.

“Patients were advised to wear these masks constantly from the time they were collected from their home and throughout the duration of dialysis until they returned home again. In addition, on the 14 April 2020, the NRO recommended that patients should not eat on dialysis.

“This, in conjunction with the community measures led to a rapid and sustained decrease in Covid-19 infection in dialysis patients, by 50 per cent (10 new patients per week) during the last two weeks of April, and 80 per cent by early May (four new patients in first week of May).  

“The NRO is pleased to report that there has been only one new case of Covid-19 infection in a dialysis patient reported to the NRO since 8 May.” 

Of the 31 patients who have passed away, seven of these deaths were in March and 20 in April.

“No deaths in dialysis or kidney transplant patients have been reported since 16 May 2020. These numbers are consistent with outcome data reported by the European renal registry, and in the USA,” according to the NRO paper (dated 25 May).

The Office noted that the Government introduced strict Covid-19 restrictions on social interactions on 12 March.  However, dialysis patients “could not cocoon as they have to attend hospital or satellite dialysis units in person three times per week. This exposed them to a high risk of contracting Covid-19 and therefore serious illness and even death.” 

There has been a total of 115 patients with end-stage kidney disease diagnosed as Covid-19 positive -87 haemodialysis patients, two peritoneal dialysis patients and 26 kidney transplants patients.

“This level of infection is significantly below the UK experience and is comparable to that reported in Europe,” stated the NRO.

As of December, there were 1,925 adult patients receiving haemodialysis in units across the country (including six in Northern Ireland).

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