GPHC and Doobay Renal Centre to offer FREE kidney transplants
Ambitious plans are in the pipeline to introduce kidney transplant operations at no cost to renal failure patients. In fact, plans for the bold move are currently engaging the attention of the Directors of the Doobay Renal Centre situated at Annandale, East Coast Demerara, and officials of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
It is expected that the kidney transplants will be undertaken at the latter mentioned facility, which has already started to put measures in place to accommodate such activities.
The GPHC had in the past facilitated such operations under the expertise of Kidney Surgeon, Dr Rahul Jindal, of the Walter Reed Medical Centre in Washington, D.C. That collaboration had, however, been brought to a halt with Dr Jindal taking his expertise to the privately-run Balwant Singh Hospital.
However, not only will the facility resume this medical procedure, but with the support of kidney doctors and financial donors from Canada, the operations will see patients incurring no cost. At least this is according to Nephrologist, Azim Gangji, of the McMaster Medical Centre, who is currently in Guyana engaging discussions with the GPHC officials.
He along with other kidney doctors from the Canadian Medical Centre are affiliated with the Doobay Renal Centre and have been offering their expertise there on a voluntary basis since the facility opened its doors last year.
He is, in fact, the fourth Nephrologist to visit the facility for this year alone, and they have been collaborating with the staff at the Centre to provide a subsidized dialysis service. However, Dr Gangji, in an interview with this newspaper, said that dialysis is in fact a temporary measure and could be used as a bridge to transplantation.
He noted that while the idea of dialysis was viewed as a “big venture”, measures have been introduced to take the care of renal failure patients one step further. He said that realistically every patient is eligible for transplant and there are no real age criteria. Rather, kidney transplant is dependent on their health status.
In North America, for instance, he said that there are two sources of kidneys for transplant. These, he noted, are through cadavers (deceased donors), and transplants using living donors. However, according to Dr Gangji, the best form of transplant is that involving living donors, an idea that is being promoted by educating patients of their options.
He said that often patients on dialysis are concerned about their options and some are even afraid to enquiry. At the same time, he said, donors may not be aware of the ways they can help their loved ones on dialysis.
He noted that efforts are being made to educate patients as well as their relatives, a move which has already commenced at the Doobay Renal Centre. “This idea of educating will hopefully bring that gap a bit closer and allow the idea of transplantation to really start off,” he speculated.
Life expectancy following a kidney transplant has on average allowed for some 90 per cent of patients to live for as long as two decades, Dr Gangji said. In addition, patients who are on dialysis have a greater risk of dying thus making a transplant the best option for most. “If you look at Canadian data, 40 per cent of individuals who start dialysis die within the first two and a half years and a lot of them have diabetes and vascular diseases…a lot of Guyanese patients have diabetes as a cause of their kidney failure. So you want to get these individuals transplanted as soon as possible to give them their life back and improve their quality of life as well,” he offered.
About 25 patients are currently accessing dialysis treatment at the Doobay Renal Centre. According to Dr Gangji, there are ways to assess patients to determine their need for transplant even as efforts are made to help them find suitable donors.
“In my education sessions I have been telling them that even a friend can be a donor, that it doesn’t have to be a relative; it could be a co-worker, friend or somebody who is very concerned about that individual’s health,” he said.
The proposed transplant operations, Dr Gangji said, will be phased into the GPHC wide range of services with an initial procedure which will require an entire team of medical experts, inclusive of nephrologists, an urologist, and nursing staff, who will be brought in from the McMaster Medical Centre.
However, he noted that the long term plan is to train local doctors and nurses to perform the procedure themselves, adding that “this is usually how programmes like these get started. We will bring in the technology and do the training and we are hoping to introduce newer ideas of how we can transplant even if donors are not compatible with patients…”
Dr Gangji pointed out, too, that “lots of studies have shown that the best form of replacement therapy is transplantation. There are some persons who benefit more with this method, especially younger individuals.”
He has observed that of the over 20 patients accessing dialysis at the East Coast facility, many are in fact young individuals. “We are trying to do what we can to help them and get their lives back on track and give them their freedom back as well.”
According to Dr Gangji, while a date for the introduction of the transplant operations has not yet been decided it is expected that they will commence next year. In the meantime, he said, “We are ensuring that we have all the finances in place…we already have some to cover medications and these are very expensive so that won’t be an issue. As far as additional testing goes we will cover all of the testing and this will all be at no cost to patients.”
Dr Gangji said that funding for the operations will also be made available by pharmaceutical companies in Canada and some Nephrologists at the McMaster Medical Centre who will also assist with cost for laboratory work.