By Bejay Browne
PAPHOS renal unit is hoping to replace 10 ageing machines which deliver lifesaving dialysis treatment to patients, as the number of kidney patients soars.
According to Dr Lakis Yioukkas, who runs the renal unit at Paphos General Hospital, around 8,500 dialysis treatments will have been carried out at the facility by the end of the year, compared with around 7,000 in 2014. The old machines are breaking down under the strain, and are in urgent need of upgrading, he said.
Although the prevalence of Thalassemia, an inherited genetic disease, passed on from parents to children is one reason why there is a need for dialysis in Cyprus, this is not the full picture, said the doctor.
“We now have around 60 people receiving regular dialysis treatment at the renal unit, and in Cyprus, as is the case all over the world, there is an increasing number of kidney patients. This is down to a number of contributing factors such as, diabetes, lifestyle and diet. They play a large part, as can obesity and inactivity,” he told the Cyprus Mail.
Yioukkos said that in addition, many people may not realise that taking painkillers can have a harmful effect on their kidneys.
“Medication which contain brufen, voltaren and general anti-inflammatory drugs are overused and often taken without medical advice. These days it’s easy to go the local pharmacy and pick them up,” he said.
He added that an ageing population can also lead to kidney problems, as people are now living longer.
“In Paphos alone, we are now getting around two new patients a month at the renal unit, about 25 a year and I’m concerned that this number is increasing.”
He said that patient’s no longer requiring treatment had either died or been the recipients of transplants.
Graham Brown the chairman of the Cyprus Kidney Association-Paphos, who was the winner of this year’s Paphos Hearts of Gold Award for his work in raising money for new machines, said that worryingly, there was now also an increase in the number of younger kidney patients needing lifesaving treatment at the renal unit, as well as an increasing number of ex pats.
“Some of these new patients presenting are in the late twenties, early thirties, and this is worrying, as patients seem to be getting younger,” he said.
The doctor stressed that the current increasing trend must be prevented and this could be done by taking regular exercise, following a good diet, keeping cholesterol at normal levels, watching sugar intake and limiting the amount of painkillers taken, as well as keeping blood pressure within medical guidelines.
“We can’t do anything about age, but we can address the other contributing factors,” he said.
Brown took over as chairman of the association in April 2014, and himself receives lifesaving treatment at the renal unit in Paphos.
He was diagnosed with a hereditary condition of polycystic kidney disease and following the removal of one of his kidneys at a Paphos hospital, he started dialysis treatment at the general in November 2013. He is now one of many patients who need regular dialysis treatment for five hours, three times a week, to keep him alive.
Although the association has done much to improve the unit’s functioning ability, by raising money and purchasing a huge amount of equipment since its inception 15 years ago, there is still much to be done, including replacing the vital blood cleaning units, said Brown.
He said that the five online hemodiafiltration (HDF) units’ – two purchased by the association and a further three donated by betting chain OPAP-which are now up and running, meant that patients were getting the best treatment possible. However, each comes with a price tag of €25,000 and a further 10 ageing machines are in urgent need of replacing.
“Only the most severe cases receive dialysis and there are people in Paphos waiting. These machines have the potential to reduce the mortality rate of patients by 30 per cent.”
Brown said that the old dialysis machines are ageing and often break down.
“This is horrible when this happens in the middle of treatment and you have to be moved to another machine. This has happened to me a number of times, it’s very unpleasant.”
Yioukkos has spent the last fifteen years at the renal unit as the manager, and said that since the year 2000, there has been a large increase in the numbers of kidney patients requiring treatment.
“In 2000, we had only 20 patients needing dialysis treatment and now the figures are three times that. The new machines have been a great help and it’s expected that the government will replace the remaining old machines with new ones next year. This is very important and needed,” he said.
Brown noted that if patients don’t get dialysis when needed, they would be dead within five days. The treatment cleans the patients’ blood, removes a build-up of toxins and regulates potassium and electrolyte levels. These machines artificially perform the same job as a healthy kidney would.
Since June 2014, the association and its supporters have raised around €90,000. As well as purchasing new machines, this money has also been used to buy a number of chair beds (at a cost of €3,500 each) add a small extension to the unit, as well as other necessary equipment.
Since 2000, the association has bought oxygen masks, blood pressure monitors, a crash trolley, an ECG machine, specialised patient weighing machines and a portable scanner.
Regular fundraising events are held in support of the association throughout the year.www.cypruskidney.com