Kenya: Red Alert Over High Demand For Dialysis

Officials tour the dialysis centre in Roysambu (file photo).

Several hospitals in Nyanza and Western regions are grappling with a growing demand for dialysis services.

The number of kidney patients seeking the services has increased recently in what doctors say is alarming.

In Migori and Kakamega counties, health workers have been forced to work extra hours even as they warn that the facilities are overwhelmed.

Doctors say some patients have travelled to their rural homes, fearing their conditions could get worse should they get infected with coronavirus.

In Migori, the county referral hospital has recorded an upsurge in patients seeking dialysis. The facility has been forced to extend working hours and hire additional workers.

Health Chief Officer Dalmas Oyugi said the patients could be exposed to the deadly virus.

“For the past few days, we have had many patients, forcing us to run our dialysis centre daily. We have expanded our services and extended working hours,” said Dr Oyugi.

He noted that patients coming from Nairobi and Eldoret jammed the facility last Thursday and Friday as Kenyans moved to the villages following the Covid-19 outbreak.

He urged patients who had not been scheduled for dialysis to stay at home to avoid overwhelming the machine and exposing themselves to risk.

“Currently, we are only attending to patients who are scheduled for dialysis. Those who had not enrolled for the services should stay at home to avoid contacting the virus while on transit,” he said.

So far, the facility is attending to 35 patients weekly.

In Kakamega, the county’s general hospital has reported an increase in patients seeking dialysis services in the last two weeks, forcing staff to work for extra hours. The hospital has nine machines and can serve 18 patients per day.

Dr Steve Biko, a physician in the renal unit, said the facility has been overwhelmed.

“We are receiving patients from Bungoma, Busia, Siaya and other parts of the region and this is piling pressure on our medical staff,” said Dr Biko.

In Vihiga, the referral hospital’s renal unit has a capacity of 19, forcing the facility to refer additional patients to the Kakamega and Kisumu counties.

Health Director Quido Ahindukha said the unit has only five machines with a small number of qualified personnel who can handle them. They are in the process of acquiring three more.

In Gusii region, the renal unit at Nyamira Referral Hospital is offering at least 30 dialysis sessions per week.

Health Executive Douglas Bosire said the hospital has eight machines, which serve patients who mostly suffer from diabetes and hypertension.

Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital’s unit serves 25 ‘permanent clients’ and dozens who receive other related services daily. Health Executive Sarah Omache said the hospital has 10 machines.

But in Kisumu, Jaramogi Odinga Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital CEO Peter Okoth said the numbers have not increased.

Five machines

“From the reports at the dialysis department, I have not seen anything that can link the rush for dialysis by kidney patients to coronavirus,” said Dr Okoth.

In Bomet, there’s no pressure on the renal unit at Longisa County Referral Hospital.

Health Executive Joseph Sitonik said they serve four patients daily.

“We have five renal machines but due to shortage of specialists, we are only able to attend to four patients per day. In conjunction with the national government, we hope to employ more medics to work in the unit soon,” said Dr Sitonik. However, they expect more pressure on the unit due to the pandemic.

Reported by Ian Byron, Benson Amadala, Derick Luvega, Ruth Mbula, Elizabeth Ojina and Vitalis Kimutai

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