Demand For Dialysis Treatment Skyrocketing

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By Mellica McPherson

The heavy demand for dialysis treatment was bemoaned in the 2013/2014 budget of the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) that was tabled in the recent sitting of the House of Assembly. The document detailed concerns for not only the heavy use of the dialysis machines, but the growing number of patients requiring such services.

While the increasing number of dialysis patients continues to be lamented by the Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton, the gravity of the situation was fully explored in the document which announced that the situation is costing the Authority, causing machine overuse which opens the door possible malfunctioning which will be problematic if encountered, and overall worry as the list of future dialysis patients lengthens.

The document emphasises that nurses have been working overtime in the Hemodialysis Unit which in the last year ended up costing the BVIHSA $40,092.99 in staff overtime. That being the situation, it was suggested that nursing overtime hours be eliminated with the introduction of two haemodialysis technicians to handle the non-nursing functions currently undertaken by registered nurses.

It was further suggested that improvements be made to the quality of patient care by introducing nutritional guidance and social service interventions thereby reducing the need for inpatient hospitalization. The budget also made mention of the replacement of four dialysis machines to enhance functioning and delete downtime due to faulty equipment.

In outlining the present situation of the Hemodialysis Unit the document highlighted that operations are carried out six days per week in order to meet the needs of 47 patients.

“There are eight registered nurses in the department and a nurse manager. The nurses currently work 8-hour shifts with a total of 160 hours at the end of four weeks. Patient appointments commence at 7:30a.m with the latest appointment time commencing at 2:30 and ending at 6:30p.m. The final 30 minutes to one hour of the shift is spent cleaning the machines and preparing the unit for the following day,” the document stated.

It was further mentioned that the patient population continues to grow, adding an average of 603 treatments per year with a total of 16 new patients admitted last year.

“The current machines and staff are operating at full capacity. Five of the 13 hemo-dialysis machines have in excess of 35,000 hours and require frequent servicing due to breakdowns. Two of the 13 machines require immediate replacement. The nurses have duties apart from their nursing responsibilities including the set up and stripping of machines, cleaning of the machines and recliners, preparation of the dialysate baths and unit set up. The machines run an average of 14 hours per day and there is no back up machine, in case of intra-dialysis breakdowns. There is currently a list of 12 known patients who will require hemo-dialysis therapy over the next 12-18 months,”  the document stressed.

On November 7, 2012 at a public meeting in Fahie Hill the Health Minister, Hon. Ronnie Skelton expressed concern over the increasing number of patients who require dialysis treatment in the Territory. In fact Hon. Skelton said that he is afraid that if the current obesity trend continues the dialysis program would become hard to sustain because Government would find it difficult to accommodate the cost for the dialysis treatment for those requiring it.

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