By Chris Kiwawulo
MULAGO Hospital has acquired a new haemodialysis machine worth $25,000 (sh46m) to improve the treatment offered to kidney patients. The Swedish-made Gumbro-type haemodialysis machine donated to Mulago Hospital by Bank of Uganda (BoU) recently, brings the total number to four.
In 1996 Mulago Hospital procured a haemodialysis machine which broke down after some time. Four years later, the hospital bought two more machines. They had just bought a third machine six months ago, when BoU donated another one.
According to Dr Edward Kigoonya, a senior consultant physician, only three machines are currently functioning.
Kigoonya, who heads the Kidney Institute at Mulago, says many Ugandans die of kidney related diseases annually.
â€œEvery month we recommend patients to go abroad for a kidney transplant,â€ he added.
The machines are for dialysis therapy. According to the doctor, the kidneys clean the blood of toxins or poisonous substances. A normal person has two kidneys doing the same thing. When one fails, the other can still work. But when both fail, the physician explains, the toxins in the blood remain and accumulate to harm the person.
â€œOne faces death unless he gets a transplant,â€ Kigoonya said.
However, this depends on the availability of a kidney donor with similar blood group and Rhesus factor. It is also very expensive. Mulago is still unable to perform kidney transplants.
â€œThe alternative for a person with a kidney failure is to go for dialysis therapy using the haemodialysis machine till she or he gets another kidney,â€ he says.
Dialysis is the process of cleansing human blood of toxins using the haemodialysis machine. Blood is removed from an artery into the machine, which cleans it before it is returned to the veins. The toxins begin to accumulate again till the next dialysis.
Kigoonya says a patient, who does dialysis twice a week, has to pay sh2m per month (eight dialyses). â€œThis is lower than about sh3m that the private clinics charge per month,â€ he said.
He added that a patient can live on the therapy for about 30 years.
In well-built renal units like in India, there is a minimum of between 20 to 40 haemodialysis machines, Dr. Edward Ddumba, the Mulago Hospital executive director said.
He appealed to financial organisations, NGOs and Good Samaritans to help the hospital procure more machines to save more lives.
Kidney transplant is very expensive. In India it costs $15,000 (sh27.75m), UK 60,000 pounds (sh216m) and in South Africa, $30,000 (sh55.5m). Mulago Hospital expects to start kidney transplants by February 2007 if $150,000 (sh277.5m) promised to the renal unit under the Intensive Care Unit is released. â€œWe hope to charge not more than $5,000 (sh9.25),â€ Kigoonya says.
He says the unit is currently understaffed with less than five experts but eight more renal medics were undergoing training in India to complement the existing staff. They need about 20 other staff to have a fully-fledged renal unit. For the last two decades or so, diabetes and HIV/AIDS are the main cause of kidney failure, according to Kigoonya.
For purposes of psychological satisfaction, the hospital has put aside a machine for HIV positive patients.
â€œThough we thoroughly clean the machines after every use and they are free from HIV, we have a special machine for AIDS patients so that people do not say they got the virus from here,â€ the physician says.