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Access to dialysis hampered as Covid hits kidney patients

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WARNING: Mark Murphy says the demand will be increased. Photo: Mark Condren

WARNING: Mark Murphy says the demand will be increased. Photo: Mark Condren

WARNING: Mark Murphy says the demand will be increased. Photo: Mark Condren

A rise in the number of people needing dialysis because of Covid-19 will cause "unexpected capacity problems" in treatment units across the country, according to the Irish Kidney Association.

Many patients admitted to intensive care with the virus also require dialysis to treat the illness.

Irish Kidney Association chief executive Mark Murphy warned this would lead to increased demand to access dialysis units, even after the crisis was suppressed in Ireland.

It comes as HSE data shows the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on dialysis patients and people waiting for kidney transplants.

There have been 33 Covid-19 related deaths among kidney patients and 119 cases of coronavirus infections. Of the 33 deaths, 29 were among dialysis patients, with four among those who were awaiting a transplant.

In total, 92 dialysis patients and 27 people on the kidney transplant list contracted Covid-19. This gives Ireland a death rate of 28pc among kidney patients who contracted the virus.

Murphy says this shows Ireland has not coped well. Spain has a 26pc death rate among kidney patients who contracted the virus, according to European Renal Association data.

France's death rate is 15pc among this cohort and Sweden, which has attempted a herd-immunity response to the virus, has a 22.5pc death rate among kidney patients who contracted the virus.

"One of the lessons learned from Italy, which had a rate of 40pc, was to give nurses PPE early. Ireland didn't," Murphy said.

Dialysis and kidney transplant patients are extremely vulnerable and prone to infection because they often have multiple pre-existing medical conditions. They could not cocoon as they attend hospital three times a week for dialysis. Murphy says decisions about nurses wearing masks in dialysis units came too late.

"I think decisions were made about PPE because there were shortages of it rather than the right decision because the patient needed it.

"The number of deaths is shocking. These patients do not do well when infection becomes an issue."

He said access to dialysis would be complicated in future because of the extra demand created by Covid-19.

"One of the consequences of Covid-19 is 30pc of patients admitted to ICU for treatment end up with failed kidneys.

"Most will recover but those who don't will require dialysis as well so we are looking at an increased number of people on dialysis. That will cause unexpected capacity problems in dialysis units."

Sunday Independent