By Anayo Okoli
The President of Beatitudes Kidney and Eye Foundation, Dr Chimezie Okwuonu has expressed concern over the little coverage given to kidney dialysis in the nation’s National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, and called on the government to review the policy to make more accommodation for kidney dialysis.
Okwuonu, a consultant physician and kidney expert, noted with sadness that NHIS as presently being operated makes provision for only six sessions of dialysis for a whole year which he described as grossly inadequate.
“Kidney dialysis is not well covered in the National Health Insurance Scheme. It made provision for only six sessions which is very inadequate. Dialysis is very cheap in Niger and Cameroon and in the Benin Republic, it is free. That is why some Nigerians fake their names and cross to these countries to receive treatment”, Okwuonu said.
He, however, commended the efforts of Katsina and Yobe governments in their efforts to make dialysis-free in their states and called on other governments to do the same or subsidize the treatment.
He said that a lot of kidney diseases are curable except the end-stage which he said is not curable.
Meanwhile, hope has risen for kidney patients in Aba and environs as Okwuonu’s Beatitudes Kidney Foundation in partnership with an American based Kidney Foundation has opened a Kidney dialysis centre at St. Paul’s Hospital, Umungasi, Aba, to give hope for kidney patients in the commercial city.
Okwuonu said despite the little efforts of foundations like his own and other private individuals, governments at all levels still need a lot to do in supporting the treatment of Nigerian’s with kidney disease.
According to him, the foundation decided to site the centre in Aba because of the large number kidney patients from Aba and environs, including Ukwa, Ugwunagbo and Obingwa who go to their Umuahia centre, lamenting that many of them had lost their lives while on transit.
“Last year we lost 3 patients on the road. And to us, the loss of one life is big. To give easy access to dialysis to people in their environment, we are collaborating with St. Paul’s hospital to run our centre in Aba”, Okwuonu said.
Also, as its own sacrifice, the foundation, he disclosed would beginning from Monday run week-long free dialysis at the Aba centre to assist the people, especially the poor patients.
He said the centre would reduce the cost of dialysis to make it affordable to people, saying that is why they seeking more partners both internationally and locally.
Okwuonu said the cost of dialysis is high because the basic consumables are not available locally, but assured that the Beatitudes centre would do its best to accommodate Nigerians of all classes to save their lives.
He urged people to be mindful of their diet and avoid salty foods, herbal contortions and go for urine screening at least once in a year.