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July 11, 2018

Die-alysis – The High Cost of Renal Failure in Belize

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2018. 8:46 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Lisa Shoman: It’s Wednesday morning. You’ve woken up, your bladder urgent with the need for relief. You get up, head to a toilet, outhouse or nearest bush and relieve the need. You stretch and try to will yourself into awareness to face your day.

The one thing you probably don’t have to worry about? Your kidneys. Your kidneys are not your problem until there is end stage kidney failure and about 85-90 percent of function is lost. Then you need dialysis to do the work of your kidneys.

Many patients have dialysis for a time and then kidneys recover and resume their usual function of removing waste, salt and extra water to prevent build up in the body and keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in your blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate.

Dialysis is generally not a problem in advanced countries. Persons who must have up to 3 treatments per week can and do live for 20 or even 30 years, but the truth is that life expectancy is really 5-10 precious years.

One of the most recognized dialysis patients in Belize is my friend Glenn Tillett. Glenn has written extensively on dialysis and the urgent need for affordable treatment.

In his “Between The Lines” column published on Sunday, Glenn revealed that the effort to keep him alive over the last 16 months, cost $50,000.00 and required the help of friends  and family numbering over 100 persons.

Think about that for a minute. Could you afford that 50k? No? Then I hope you have 100 committed friends and family if you need dialysis 3 times per week, at $220 or $300 or $600 a pop.

Meantime, in places like the US, the federal government allegedly covers about 80 -100% of the cost to patients. In neighboring Honduras, a Law has been passed to ensure that all dialysis patients receive the treatment without which they will die, regardless of ability to pay.

Glenn is right. Dialysis should be regarded as a human right. Too many of our precious citizens die because they cannot afford dialysis three times, or even twice a week.

And what is GOB doing for our vulnerable citizens who need dialysis three times a week?

Spending 2 million dollars per year for 30 dialysis patients. That is about 38,500.00 per week.

At the 600.00 that KHMH charges, that should take care of about 60 persons with about 2,000.00 for admin costs. Loma Luz Hospital charges 300.00 and at that cost, could treat 120 persons for the 2 million per year.  The private treatment center, Dialisis del Caribe, that Glenn goes to charges $220 and could theoretically treat about  170 persons per week for the 2 million we spend.

And in the meantime, Pablo Saul Marin, Minister of Health, is twiddling his thumbs while dialysis patients die, unable to afford the high cost of dialysis.

According to Glenn, the shocking true number of patients treated on the government dime may be as little as 17 at Loma Luz. When he was hospitalized at the KHMH, he was sent to Belize Healthcare Partners for treatment. He was never told why he could not be treated down the corridor at the KHMH.

Pressed this week to defend his government ‘s 2 million dollar expenditure and poor coverage of dialysis, Minister of Health Pablo Marin said that “At the moment KHMH is charging me $600 for dialysis, Loma Luz is charging me about $300 per dialysis. I think that definitely that is an outrage for me. I am sitting down with them tomorrow, with Loma Luz and with KHMH and I hope that this month I can finalize it and be able to put more patients in the system.”

When did Rip Van Pablo awaken to the fact that he (we) were being ripped off? Day before yesterday? Does he take us for fools, or is he one?

Glenn makes the point that trying to get information about the public assistance program for dialysis is next to impossible. It is treated as top secret and operates apparently without any public scrutiny.

I join Glenn in his call for a full scale public inquiry to ascertain what has been spent by who, to what effect and for how long. And we need urgent remedial action to save precious lives, and we need that NOW.

When asked by the media what the plan of action was, Pablo Saul Marin replied:

“We have $2 million dollars already on subsidizing and with that we are only working with 30 patients. With this $220 dollars they are charging now, we can put twice the amount so now 60 patients will be going in the dialysis. But what I am trying to see is look at the social aspect of that patient if they can afford one or two and we put the rest and the person who can’t afford it we can help them with everything.”

I’m actually left speechless and his clueless casual cruelty. As Glenn says, while Marin (and his cabinet) dither and stall, Belizeans in need are dying.

That doesn’t require any “broad sketch “ as Channel 7 News calls Marin’s response.

It calls for urgent action and now.


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