IN what certainly represents a major breakthrough for people suffering from kidney complications, the government is expected to receive, tomorrow, 62 new kidney dialysis machines from the government of Saudi Arabia that will be distributed to zonal and regional hospitals countrywide.
Currently, the country has 42 machines, according to the Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Faustine Ndugulile. This means, that, in all, the country will have 104 machines at the various health facilities.
Dialysis machines are used to filter a patient's blood to remove excess water and waste products when the kidneys are damaged, dysfunctional, or missing. The dialysis machine represents an artificial kidney.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Dr Ndugulile said the government was putting all measures in place for reducing the cost of treating people suffering from kidney complications.
He was speaking to remind Tanzanians on the importance of frequent health check-ups as the country joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Kidney Day (WKD), which is marked on March 14 every year. This year's theme is 'Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere'.
Despite the growing burden of kidney diseases worldwide, kidney health disparity and inequity are still widespread. Globally, chronic kidney diseases (CKD) cause at least 2.4 million deaths per year and are now the sixth fastest growing cause of death.
According to Dr Onesmo Kisanga, a kidney specialist at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), a team of experts is currently conducting a study to establish the number of people suffering from kidney complications in the country.
Transplantation is considered the most cost-effective treatment of CKD. However, it has high set up costs with regards to infrastructure and requires highly specialised teams, availability of organ donors and cannot be done without dialysis backup.
According to Dr Ndugulile, a single dialysis in Tanzania costs 250,000/-, meaning that a patient can spend up to 1m/- per week. However, he explained that the country had so far reduced referrals for India to treat kidney complications.
Initially, a person who was referred to India for kidney transplantation spent between 80m/- and 100m/-, but now a patient who receives the same treatment at MNH or Benjamin Mkapa Hospital (BMH) which are currently offering kidney transplantation surgery, spends only 21m/-.
"Until now, 42 patients have been successfully operated, out of which 38 were treated at MNH and four others were operated at BMH; if they were to be referred to India, 4.2bn/- would have been spent but the total cost in Tanzania was only 800m/-," he said.
This means that, by carrying out transplantation at local medical facilities, the government saved over 3bn/-. According to Dr Kisanga, the country has only 14 kidney specialists and that five others are expected to be deployed in the country after accomplishing their studies.