Dying Slowly

Patients with Kidney Problems Can’t Pay Their Bills

By: Duke Nii  Amartey Tagoe

Hundreds, if not thousands of people with varying degrees of kidney diseases are dying slowly because they cannot afford health care.

Some of the patients need as much as Ghc 570.00 every week for dialysis alone.

A patient who spoke to this reporter at the Renal Unit of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, said he spends more than Ghc 800.00 every week just to stay alive.

Currently, it costs Ghc 190.00 to undergo one session of dialysis and many patients have to do it three times a week.

Ex- Sergeant Daniel Kotey of the fourth battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces who has been undergoing three sessions of dialysis a week for more than 10 years, says all his resources have been depleted.

“My pension is gone, I have sold my land and many other things and now I have nothing. I don’t even know how I am going to pay for my next session” he said.

The case of Razak is most troubling.

He first noticed that he was losing weight very fast.

He was treated for malaria and later typhoid, but his situation continued to get worse.

Razak was later referred to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital where, to his utter shock, doctors asked him to make a down payment of Ghc 7000.00 in order to undergo a mandatory thirty nine sessions of dialysis.

He claims that by this time he was already financially exhausted because he had spent all his money on laboratory tests and drugs.

Interestingly, a National Kidney Fund set up to assist patients now has to discriminate because it does not have enough resources for everybody.

A nurse who spoke to this reporter said the fund is now used to support mostly very young people with severe and life threatening conditions.

She also claimed that what patients pay is only part of the cost of dialysis and that the hospital provides a subsidy.

The Renal Unit currently conducts a little over seventy dialysis every day, but the machines are not many, there are only eighteen of them.

For this reason, in order to receive early treatment, patients have to set off to the hospital very early in the morning and in a few instances ruffians and some robbers have attacked the patients and robbed them of their money.

But ex. Sergeant Kotey’s case is a pathetic and a particularly sad story. A few years ago when he started his dialysis, he sold a few plots of land he had acquired once in active service, but having run out of cash, he has to sometimes walk from Osu to Korle Bu with his clutches fixed under his armpit.

Like other patients at the Renal Unit who spoke to this reporter, Ex. Sgt. Kotey needs the support of well wishers and sympathizers in cash and in kind, especially in cash.

Doctors have attributed the primary cause of kidney failures to infections of the kidney through diabetes and hypertension. These two conditions have been found to easily infect the kidneys leading first to acute cases and then an aggravation to chronic situations when treatment is delayed.

Urea and creatinine are natural waste products, but they can cause the kidney to fail when they accumulate in the body at unreasonably high levels.

Potassium is a very good nutrient needed by the body for regular heartbeat and a healthy heart, but over concentration of this nutrient in the blood streams can also lead to kidney failures and so with calcium and phosphate.

Essentially, there are two kidneys in every human body and connect to the bladder by a tube called the ureter. The function of the kidney is to collect natural waste from the blood, which gathers in the bladder as urine and must be expelled very quickly from the body.

Failure to rid the system of this toxic waste can be injurious to the bladder and the kidneys.

The kidneys also control blood pressure and help to make red blood cells.

Generally, your kidneys can fail due to problems that occur within or without of them.

High blood pressure, poor blood supply, obstructed outflow of  blood due to stones in the valves or prostate, diabetes and hypertension are external problems that can impact adversely on your kidneys.

What is most frightening about kidney failures are that symptoms only manifest when about 70% of the kidneys have been destroyed and the damage is usually irreversible in chronic cases.

Doctors recommend regular blood tests to determine how well the kidneys are working.

One doctor said: “ we have noticed that because kidney failures occur gradually, it starts with general tiredness, loss of appetite and persistent headaches and that is why it has become necessary that once you find these symptoms occurring very often you take immediate steps to find out the cause and we suggest that you test your blood.”

Feint & Margin

Feint & Margin is a weekly, online, Pan-African publication featuring writings and thoughts from Ordinary Africans who have Extraordinary minds. We represent the True Voice of the African Citizen.

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