Since taking office Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton has been bemoaning the current chronic disease figures and the growing list of persons requiring dialysis treatment. This week the Minister’s cry took on a most urgent note as the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization announced that kidney disease was rising among seniors with diabetes and hypertension, and made an international call for healthcare providers to test high-risk patients.

In a joint press release that was issued on 11 March the Organizations stated that one in 10 adults overall has some form of chronic kidney disease: “Diabetes and high blood pressure, together with aging, are the main risk factors for developing chronic kidney disease, which affects an estimated one in 10 adults globally, according to studies. The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is calling on healthcare providers to test high-risk patients for signs of kidney disease, particularly those with diabetes and hypertension, and is calling on individuals to maintain healthy lifestyles,” the release stated.

According to the release Chronic kidney Disease (CKD) is the progressive loss of kidney function over months or years. In its early stages, the disease produces no symptoms and is treatable. But in more advanced stages, patients can require dialysis and even kidney transplants.

In fact “Chronic kidney disease and aging” was the theme of this year’s World Kidney Day,  which was celebrated on March 13 and promoted by the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations.

Last 4 March the Ministry of Health and Social Development announced that measures are being taken to strengthen and improve care, treatment and support for persons living with chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the Territory. It was further disclosed that Coordinator of Health Promotions Services, Ms. Ivy George who is the National Focal Point for NCDs along with consultant Dr. Sandra Delon, Director for the Chronic Disease Prevention, Healthy Living, Population and Public Health from Alberta, Canada have been meeting with key officials in the Ministry of Health, BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA), Private Physicians, and various health community associations to develop a strategy for strengthening the care, treatment and support to NCDs patients and their families.

Legislators Concerned

The issue of the expanding list of dialysis patients was mention at a public meeting on 30 October, 2013 by Eighth District Representative, Hon. Marlon Penn.

The Legislator who was at the time presenting the proposal for a sports facility to his constituents said: “You heard the Minister of Health speaking about non communicable diseases, and their impact on our society. We have a situation right now in the Territory where we started dialysis with about ten persons needing to have dialysis; we now have progressed to over 58 persons, with persons on a waiting list. So it says that we are not doing enough physical activities within our territory.”

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.

He told the gathering that hypertension and obesity are considered a serious national health situation among the non-communicable diseases group: “High hypertension and obesity is causing a large percentage of our people to have to go on dialysis. When we started the dialysis unit at Peebles Hospital about six years ago, we had about 13 or 14 patients; now we have about 54 and it’s climbing,” he said.

In light of the increasing numbers the Minister suggested that intervention begin in the schools at the earliest age. “We need to address it at the school level and I know of some schools that have already started the programme. So there is help on the way for this because if we continue this way we wouldn’t be able to offer dialysis to all the people who need it,” the Health Minister cautioned.