NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 20 – To many Kenyans, being diagnosed with kidney failure has for decades marked the genesis to a torturous journey.
Besides the expenses involved during treatment, many are forced to travel miles away to look for a health facility with such services.
In Tharaka Nithi County, patients have for long had to make expensive weekly trips to Nairobi and other far-flung regions to access the life-support treatment.
Some would soon retire to fate or even suffer depression as high travel cost took its toll on their meagre income.
But they finally have a reason to smile after the Chuka County Referral Hospital started offering dialysis services last week.
In just over a week, 20 patients have already benefited from the services of the five state-of-the-art machines recently leased to the devolved government by the national government.
Bernard Kirimi, a resident of Marima in Maara Sub-county, says he had been seeking the services in the neighbouring Meru County for the last one year.
He painfully recalls how he would at times spend a whole day unattended due to the long queues at Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital.
“I feel so happy that I can now easily access the services at Chuka which is close to home and this has also reduced the cost for me,” he says.
Dialysis, which is done on individuals with kidney failure, involves the use of a special machine to filter harmful wastes, salt and excess fluid from the blood.
This restores the blood to a normal, healthy balance. The process replaces many of the kidney’s important functions. The long-term solution for patients is a kidney transplant, which is costly.
Mary Cianjoka, who hails from Chuka Igambang’ombe, says she has been travelling to Nyeri town twice a week for dialysis at a private hospital.
Despite the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) catering for the service, she would spend about Sh25,000 on both trips – Sh16, 000 on drugs and the rest on travelling, lunch and other expenses.
But the opening of a dialysis centre in Chuka has greatly reduced Ms Cianjoka’s cost of managing the condition.
“One feels contented after the dialysis, though it is very costly and not all can afford. I have seen people we were going for dialysis with in Kenyatta National Hospital die because they could not afford the costs,” she said.
Dr Elijah Kameti, the medical superintendent at Chuka hospital, admits that the machines will relieve patients off the burden of seeking the services in other counties.