Up to 150,000 Jamaicans are afflicted by some form of kidney disease, Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton has indicated.

The number includes those in the early stages of the disease, and in some instances at the end stage when dialysis is required, Tufton said.

He was responding to questions posed by Opposition members, including Central Kingston representative, Reverend Ronald Thwaites, in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The minister said the Government is “very concerned about the numbers”, and as such, has been working on a list of things to address the issues, “starting with prevention, because what we’re advocating now is how do we make curative treatment methods more affordable…,” he said.

Tufton added that the Government is also looking to expand the kidney transplant programme.

“But long before that it is about the prevention issue, the type of consumption habits etc… there has to be a more comprehensive, holistic approach,” the minister stated.

Regarding renal failure and the need for dialysis, he cited that the public health system offers some support, but noted that there is always a waiting list.

Tufton pointed out that those who access treatment in the private sector are forced to fork out up to $80,000 per week.

He said while the Government provides some support, “The question is whether or not we can afford to give the levels of support that everybody needs.”

The Government has determined that this is not possible at this point in time, he added.

Reverend Ronald Thwaites (file photo)

Meanwhile, Tufton told the House that patients in the public health system can now access diagnostic and radiology services paid for by the Government at 10 privately-run facilities.

The agreement took effect on October 7, following the framework agreements being signed on September 25 with the following providers:

Apex Radiology, Danhope Radiology, Dynamic Imaging Services, Erin Radiology, Imaging and Intervention Associates, Khris Radiology, North Coast Imaging, Radiology West, St Jago Ultrasound and X-Ray and the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

The test procedures/investigations that are covered under the arrangement are CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds, endoscopy (colonoscopy), mammography, x-ray services, among others. There is no requirement for patients to apply for assistance in regards to accessing the applicable services.

“Where a public hospital does not have the capacity in-house to provide the required diagnostic/radiology tests, whether due to lack of equipment or equipment malfunctioning, patients will be referred to a contracted service provider by the hospital administration based on the recommendation of the attending physician, for the required tests to be administered,” Tufton outlined.

He said the programme applies to hospital patients only, such as in-patients, accident and emergency patients and persons being seen at out-patient clinics.

Some 60,000 patients stand to benefit from the new arrangement, which is expected to cost $200 million in the first year.

In the meantime, Tufton said estimates show that it will take roughly US$30 million (J$5.4 billion) to bring the equipment in public health facilities up to speed. The process could take two years.

“The reality is that we have neglected equipping and re-equipping, and certainly maintaining the diagnostic equipment in our public health institutions. And as a consequence, we have this dilemma. This new programme is to address the immediate (needs) because of the pain and suffering which was identified with persons who couldn’t afford to pay for private services,” Tufton remarked.

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