Kidney Disease On The Rise

95 on Dialysis, 85 on waiting list

Dr. Merle Clarke
Dr. Merle Clarke

WITH 95 people on dialysis in Saint Lucia and another 85 on the waiting list, The Renal Association, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations is calling on Saint Lucians to be on their guard against contracting diabetes and high blood pressure, which could lead to kidney disease.

The call comes amid the fear that there are more patients out in the public who may be in need of kidney care than what health authorities have calculated.

“Records indicate 150 patients with stage four kidney disease and 172 documented stage three patients. I stress on the word documented because usually what you have documented is just the tip of the iceberg. So there are probably quite a few patients out there that we do need to capture, especially diabetics and hypertensives who have a predisposition to develop kidney disease or chronic kidney disease especially if they don’t have good control of their blood pressures and their blood sugars,” Dr. Merle Clarke, Consultant Nephrologist with the Ministry of Health said.

The Renal Association and the Ministry will soon be embarking on a sensitization drive to culminate on March 15 at the Beausejour indoor sports facility. There will be talks at various schools, radio and television interviews and a celebrity sports day scheduled for that date.

Kimberly Francis who is a police officer, mother and wife is also calling on Saint Lucians to eat right and exercise enough to prevent kidney disease.

Francis who understands all too well the problems associated with kidney diseases is a dialysis patient. According to her when she was first diagnosed with kidney problems she was distraught and in disbelief, unable to comprehend her diagnosis.

“Why me,” she stated, adding that as time went by she learned to accept her condition.

Francis has been on dialysis from September 2013, undergoing treatment three days a week, four hours per session.

“I am appealing to everyone to take care of themselves, take care of their kidneys. It doesn’t come with age, it is something that someone just develops. It can be hereditary, so I am asking everyone to take care of themselves, eat right, diet and exercise,” she said.

The call to eat right and exercise also comes from Dr. Clarke who noted that most patients are asymptomatic, meaning that though they have the disease they experience no symptoms, in the early stages. However their chances of early detection may go unnoticed if they do not undertake regular checkups with a physician.

“And these are the patients who are out there who have not been detected and that creates a big problem for us. We are still getting quite a few patients who are coming in with stage five kidney diseases,” Dr. Clarke said.

Dr. Clarke explains that the 85 patients on the waiting list are persons who require dialysis but the government operated health institutions cannot provide it because they do not have the resources to do so.

“So we try to manage those patients conservatively. Try to do the best we can to manage them. The situation is quite serious and these are all stage five patients,” Dr. Clarke said.

She explained that dialysis takes up the largest part of the health care budget which is not sustainable in a resource poor environment therefore the focus is on the health care providers, the Renal Association and the Ministry of Health to sensitize the public on the importance of having diabetes and high blood pressure controlled to prevent the development of kidney disease.

“We are simply never going to be able to treat everybody who requires dialysis who has end stage kidney disease. So public sensitization is our aim,” Dr. Clarke said.

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