One kidney specialist is suggesting that the amount of money being spent on dialysis in Barbados could be put to use elsewhere in the health system.
Nephrologist and Consultant with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Dr Nerissa Jurawan said chronic diseases were “exploding” in Barbados, while pointing out that every week there were up to five new patients requiring dialysis.
However, the surgeon suggested that instead of dialysis, the country could do better with more kidney transplantation.
“Right now, it is a global problem. We are spending more and more of every health budget on chronic non-communicable disease. Dialysis is extremely expensive. In fact, in Barbados we cannot cope with what we are seeing. We don’t have enough resources to dialyze the number of patients that we are seeing,” said Jurawan.
“Kidney transplantation saves money when compared to dialysis and that money we are saving we can use to help more patients with chronic non-communicable diseases because hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis are not sustainable solutions. We need to gear up most of our resources towards transplantation,” she recommended.
Dr Jurawan was delivering a presentation at one of the weekly luncheons of the Rotary Club of Barbados on Thursday at the Hilton Resort, as the association launched its organ donor awareness campaign.
Kidney transplant had stopped in Barbados for about a decade before Dr Jurawan came to the island just over five years ago, and with the help of the UK-based Transplant Links Community, helped to revive the transplant programme here.
Since 2015 there have been ten kidney transplants and “everyone is doing well”, according to Jurawan.
Making a case for more kidney transplant to take place here the doctor said “Lots of young patients have had to give up working because they just feel so awful on dialysis and then their employers don’t understand that they have to be at the hospital or wherever they are having their dialysis, three times a week.”
“It is better to have a living kidney donor transplant than to remain on dialysis. Patients may live up to 15 years longer with a transplant than if kept on dialysis and donating a kidney to a loved one can help them return to a normal life and will in no way affect the donor’s health. Kidney transplantation is cheaper in the long-run than having all of these patients on dialysis,” she explained.
“When you have a transplant your quality of life improves, you have more energy, you have more time and a less restricted diet and you have fewer complications than if you were on dialysis,” she explained.
While there are two types of donor transplant – a live donor and deceased donor – Barbados’ laws only allows for live donor transplant to take place but not for doctors to advocate for donors.
Government is currently in the process of developing legislation that would allow for deceased donor transplant, meaning that once someone has agreed to donate their organs it would be retrieved at their passing.
Stating that Barbados “really need the deceased donor programme”, the consultant agreed there was need for greater awareness on the issue.
“In terms of the donation in Barbados there is no legislation to donate. So we can’t have a drive to say ‘if you are willing to donate your organs after you pass you can sign up when you get your licence’. So we have long strides to make in terms of education of why donation is so important,” she said.
Any healthy adult can donate a kidney and does not have to be a blood relative or of the same gender. Careful health checks are done before a kidney is donated.