{FILE IMAGE - HEALTH MINISTER INNISS WITH DR JOY ST JOHN} "The Minister disclosed that the QEH was currently managing 168 patients on dialysis, with 50 per cent being treated three times per week and the other 50 per cent, twice weekly."

Given the prevailing trend, the number of patients on dialysis in Barbados could double, reaching some 400 by the year 2020.

This projection, based on statistics from a 2007 World Bank Study was shared by Health Minister, Donville Inniss last evening, at the annual Silma Reeves Lecture of the Barbados Kidney Association, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

To counter this tendency, he revealed that the Ministry was looking for sustainable solutions, one of which was kidney transplantation.

It is the intention of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to restart and maintain the momentum with its transplantation programme. This is expected to save considerable sums of money in the medium to long-term, as we get such patients off dialysis and leading a more productive life,” the Minister noted. He explained that “when preparatory and surgical costs are added to anti-rejection drug costs, we realize that transplantation is the way to go.”

Pointing out that he had requested that the QEH and the Ministry work of Health with a “sense of determination” to address the issue of organ donation, as it related to brain stem death and ‘do not resuscitate’ policies, Mr. Inniss said: “There are some major ethical, and perhaps religious issues, that will rage in this debate; but I urge all not to be faint hearted, but to engage in a robust debate and let us come to reasonable decisions. We would not be the first or last country to pursue such a programme.”

The QEH is also in the process of replacing 18 dialysis machines in three tranches, at a cost of approximately $1.9 million per year over the next five years.

The Minister disclosed that the QEH was currently managing 168 patients on dialysis, with 50 per cent being treated three times per week and the other 50 per cent, twice weekly. Thirteen patients were on peritoneal dialysis and 21 patients attended a private facility. He noted that in 2001, direct and indirect costs of diabetes and hypertension were high, at 1.8% and 3.5 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), respectively.

It costs approximately $54,000 annually to provide dialysis for one person on haemodialysis in the QEH, and we are currently paying $1.2 million per year for those whose service is currently outsourced. It is costing the state approximately $10 million per year for dialysis services in Barbados. In other words, seven per cent of the QEH budget is being spent on less than 200 patients,” he explained.

While noting that this did not include the social and economic costs from unemployment due to illness, disruption to family life and other issues, Mr. Inniss pointed out that Government could not allow the situation to worsen as diabetes and hypertension care accounted for almost 65 per cent of the $370 million expenditure on public health.

It is estimated that over 38,000 Barbadians over the age of 20 are hypertensive and 19,000 are diabetic. {DATA COURTESYLB/BGIS}

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