KUCHING: The state has a lot of catching up to do to improve its dialysis treatment rate of 113 per million population, which is behind the national average of 146 per million population.
Assistant Industrial Development Minister Dr Abang Abdul Rauf Abang Zen, who noted this based on the Malaysia Dialysis and Transplant Registry Report 2009, revealed that for states like Negeri Sembilan, Penang and Johor, the dialysis rate is 200 per million population or better.
Dr Rauf also mentioined that two-thirds of the more than 30 haemodialysis centres in Sarawak are in government hospitals.
“We hope that the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and other non-government organisations (NGOs) will set up more dialysis centers in Sarawak to provide better access to this life-saving treatment,” he said at the 8th NKF Patient Forum held here yesterday.
The forum, held for the first time in the state, was well-attended with 480 participants. It is part of NKF’s campaign to reach out to dialysis patients nationwide in conjunction with its 40th anniversary this year.
Dr Rauf said with 1,500 dialysis patients in Sarawak, the forum was timely to inform them of the various financial and welfare assistances available.
He added that the government will continue to shoulder much of the costs for dialysis and funds were channelled not only to government dialysis centers but also through reimbursements by government agencies and through subsidies to NGO dialysis centres.
This is to make it easier for the people, especially the poor, to get treatment.
“Over the last decade, the number of dialysis patients in the country has increased by 400 per cent, from just over 5,000 in 1999 to more than 20,000 in 2009. The Health Ministry and the government are very concerned with the number of patients with kidney failure,” he said.
Statistics from the same report showed that 4,416 new patients were accepted into the dialysis programme in 2009 and the number is expected to rise annually, he said.
Dr Rauf said that in 2009, 58 per cent of new dialysis patients in Malaysia were found to have diabetes while another eight per cent developed end stage kidney failure due to hypertension.
The increasing trend of diabetes and hypertension as a cause of kidney failure was extremely worrying as these lifestyle diseases can be controlled or even prevented, he said.
“I would like to stress that prevention measures are very important in combating kidney disease. Although genetic predisposition cannot be avoided, other factors like unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyles, obesity and smoking are some of the more controllable factors.”
He pointed out that if the factors were controlled, it would lessen the risk of contracting diabetes and high blood pressure as well as lessen the complications which were caused by end stage kidney failure.
Early diagnosis, appropriate treatment and controlling risk factors will lessen the risk of kidney failure and damage to other organs in the body, he said.
“We need to increase our efforts to encourage early detection and to try to prevent what is often a potentially preventable disease,” said Dr Rauf, urging the media to continue to highlight and encourage healthy lifestyles and healthy eating habits to bring long term gains.
“I understand that the Health Ministry conducts regular media campaigns to educate the public about risk factors for lifestyle diseases such as high sugar intake, obesity, smoking, alcohol and lack of exercise,” he said.
Meanwhile, NKF Patient Selection and Welfare Committee chairman Dr JD John said that the forum, entitled ‘The Role, Financial Assistance and Job Opportunities of Agencies for End Stage Kidney Failure Patients’ was to ensure that accessibility of information to the various forms of financial assistances was made equally available to all dialysis patients nationwide.
“One of the aims of this forum would be to encourage dialysis patients to seek employment as this would reduce the financial burden of government agencies and also improve the social and psychological well-being of patients who are still able-bodied and young enough to seek employment,” he said.
He added that it will also reduce financial burden of the patients, especially those who are still able to work.
Topics covered at the forum include the Role and Financial Subsidy by Ministry of Health; The Role and Financial Assistance by Social Welfare Department and Patient Support Group.
There was also an open discussion session.
NKF board of managers vice-chairman Dr Tan Chwee Choon was among those present.