Samaritan program for dialysis patients
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - December 20, 2018 - 12:00am

I’m one of many slightly diabetics who take our condition not too seriously. We pop a prescribed pill or two, do some exercise when we remember to do so, and eat to our heart’s content what we should only have a slice of,  like one cheek of a mango or six pieces of lanzones instead of half a kilo of. My diabetes doctor, in frustration, told me, “Well, if you insist eating what’s bawal, go ahead. You can always resort to having dialysis.” His tone was too serious to be taken lightly.      

Just what is dialysis?

In the news recently was the inauguration of the Philippine Red Cross’ first-ever dialysis center – described as “a tangible proof of the PRC’s commitment to provide quality life-saving services that protect the life and promote the dignity of the most vulnerable.” 

The dialysis center, located at Bonifacio  Drive, Port Area, Manila, brings to fruition Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon’s idea “to lessen the suffering of people afflicted with kidney failure and to provide them with a modern facility with state-of-the-art equipment and quality healthcare. The  center makes high-quality hemodialysis treatments accessible to the less fortunate among persons diagnosed with chronic kidney failure or CKD.

Chronic Kidney Disease, Gordon says in his endless campaign for good healthcare, has become a global health crisis, affecting approximately 10 percent of the world’s population. The rise in the global burden of this disease comes as a consequence of the increase in the incidence of diabetes and hypertension. 

Over two million people worldwide are currently undergoing dialysis, Gordon continues. However, millions more die because they do not have access to affordable treatment. This is particularly true in low-to-middle-income countries where the poor do not have access to costly renal replacement therapies such as dialysis and kidney transplantation. Every year in the Philippines, there is an  estimated average of 15,000 new dialysis patients. By the end of December 2015, a total of 32,077 patients (old and new) were recorded to be on dialysis treatment nationwide.

Dialysis burdens the person not just physically, but financially as well. The estimated average cost of dialysis in the country is P4,500 per session, but P5,000 per session at high-end hospitals. The PRC dialysis center charges P4,200 per session, for both poor and moneyed patients. Dialysis treatment sessions range from two to three times a week. Three times-a-week treatment therefore means P12,600 per week. What’s  more,  P4,200 does not cover medication costs and payment for nephrologist service. 

Some relief is provided by PhilHealth which covers P2,600 per session. This means the patient, if he/she is a PhilHealth member, pays only P1,600 per session plus nephrologist’s fee and maintenance medication. But the patient has to have from three to four sessions of dialysis – the whole year – and for the rest of his/her life.

This columnist visited the PRC dialysis facility at the Port Area and was shown around the facility by the PRC medical director, Dr. Anna Katherina Chan Mendoza, MD, DPCP,DPSN. In one room were two rows of dialysis treatment chairs where patients sit with needles and bloodlines attached to  their bodies for four and more hours.

All the equipment at the center is a gift from the Tokushukai Medical Group. We were told Chairman Gordon used his persuasive, charismatic power to convince the Tokushukai officers to help persons with chronic kidney failure  prolong their lives at minimal costs. The equipment donated is 10 brand-new Nipro hemodialysis machines and two automated reprocessing machines. It has a dialysis water treatment system with an endotoxin retentive filter from EG Healthcare to ensure high quality dialysis water.

Dr. Mendoza said there are 500 dialysis units nationwide. The PRC center is the latest entry, located at the former PRC administration center in the Port area.  

The PRC offices and blood bank are now located on EDSA, near the corner of Boni Ave., called PRC Tower.  “It was found out that many of the patients who are getting their blood supply for transfusions at the PRC Tower blood bank  are in dialysis,” said Dr. Mendoza. So PRC’s decision to have a dialysis treatment facility came as a matter of course. A graduate of the University of the Philippines Integrated Arts and Medicine (INTARMED) program, she has hospital/dialysis unit affiliations with several hospitals. She is heading a team of paramedics prepare the facility when it goes to full operation with the expected patients.

PRC goes beyond just offering dialysis treatments. It has established the Dialysis Samaritan Program – a sponsorship plan where companies or individuals can donate to help patents meet their required number of hemodialysis treatments.

For P4,200, a sponsor can shoulder the cost of one session of hemodialysis treatment for a patient, which includes the use of a high-flux dialyzer, Erythropoetin IEPO) injection, as-needed emergency medications, oxygen support, and ambulance services.

For P644,200, a sponsor can cover the cost of one-year’s worth of treatment for a patient, which includes 156 hemodialysis sessions, 15 high-flux dialyzers, EPO injections per session, laboratory tests, and emergency services.

As of this writing, Dr. Mendoza said five companies have each offered to sponsor one-year’s-worth of treatment for five patients who have been identified by Dr. Mendoza and her team as needing the Samaritan program. 

As if these services are not enough, PRC adopts a holistic approach to uplift the most vulnerable,  the dialysis center provides the following services: monthly nutritional assessment of the patients;  health education for the patients, their families, and caregiver workshops for relatives of dialysis patients; livelihood projects for patients  and their families; recreational activities for patients, and promotion of primary prevention of chronic kidney disease through community health education programs.

Are you looking for people to give Christmas gifts to? Contact Philippine Red Cross Dialysis Center, at mobile no. 0921-9309932 and email: prchemodialysis@redcross.org.ph. All checks must be addressed to Philippine Red Cross only.

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I have a good word for my diabetes doctor, Dr. Anthony Marquez, MD, M.H.A., assistant medical director of Pasig City General Hospital. He is so concerned about my husband’s and my welfare he even calls us to remind us of our appointments, medicines, and lab tests. We are on vacation in Gingoog City, and he calls us from Pasig, to take it easy on the marangs and durians that we have been devouring like crazy. Merry Christmas, Doc.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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