It is a reprieve for patients with renal diseases in Elgeyo Marakwet County after Iten County Referral Hospital started offering dialysis.
Initially, a patient like John Kiplimo, from Kapsait in Marakwet East Sub County could travel to Eldoret, some 100 Kilometers for dialysis. Mr Kiplimo was diagnosed with a kidney failure three years ago and he has been on dialysis since then.
Dialysis, which is done on individuals with kidney failure, involves the use of a special machine to filter harmful wastes, salt and excess fluid from the blood.
It restores the blood to normal and healthy balance. The process replaces many of the kidney’s important functions. The long-term solution for patients is a kidney transplant.
“I was often forced to travel a day earlier to Eldoret. I could spend the night at a relative’s home in Eldoret or at the hospital so that I could be attended the day that followed,” said Mr Kiplimo, who has been on dialysis for the past three months at Iten County Referral Hospital.
He is among several patients whose journey of travelling several kilometres for dialysis has been cut and now being attended at Iten County Referral Hospital. “I come early in the morning and by evening I will be at home. I come here every Tuesday and Friday. There’s no queue and the staff are friendly,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Health about 10,000 Kenyans require dialysis services each year but only 1,000 patients are able to access them.
Traditionally, those who sought the services in public hospitals had to go to various referral hospitals such as the Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital or meet the high costs that would be demanded at private institutions.
“It was draining me so fast (cost of dialysis) since I used to pay between sh7000 and Sh10,000 at MTRH and private hospitals respectively. When there was a long line at the hospital (MTRH), I had no option but to go to a private hospital which often charged not less than Sh10,000 per session,” said the 68-year old farmer. He gets the service at no cost since he is using the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Dr Benjamin Kimaile, the medical superintendent at Iten hospital, admits that the machines have relieved off patients the burden of seeking services in other counties.
“We have five machines will relieve patients off the burden of seeking the services in other counties. All are operational and it is encouraging to see this happen,” he said.
The hospital offers dialysis services four days a week taking a break on Wednesdays; a day set aside to clean the machines and emergencies according to the head of renal unit Dr Patrick Kosgei who is also Director Medical services.
Of the fives machines, Dr Kosgei reveals, with each patient being attended for four hours, 10 patients can be served daily.
“We have had successful sessions. I would like to let people know that we are doing dialysis here. Currently the unit is not utilised to the maximum because many people still don’t believe we are offering this services here,” said Dr Kosgei, “We want to reach out locals and those from the neighbouring counties.”
Governor Alex Tolgos said in his first term, several kidney patients or their relatives went to see him for financial assistance so as to pay for dialysis.
He said: “Several people who had patients with kidney problems came to seeking financial assistance. I am happy that now dialysis can be done at Iten.”
He urged local residents to register with the NHIF adding that Patients with the national insurance cover can get into the facility, get treated and walk out free. Those with no cover pay Sh5000 per session.
The equipment was acquired by the county in a partnership with the national government. It is a flagship project aimed at ensuring that every Kenyan has access to quality health care across the country regardless of their financial ability. Governor Tolgos was among the first county chiefs to sign for the program dubbed Tiba Mashinani rolled out by the national government.
“Having been the first Governor to agree to sign for this program, I am a happy man today after seeing patients undergo dialysis treatment right here in Iten. This is a dream come true,” said the Governor.