Doctors are not surprised that the Government picked end-stage kidney disease as something that needed targeted support, since high blood pressure and diabetes are pretty much part of daily conversations in homes across the country. Both these health conditions are among the common causes that affect the kidneys, and it’s no secret that India holds the dubious distinction of being among the top two countries with diabetes. What is key now is how the Government intends to roll out the ‘National Dialysis Services Programme’ proposed this Budget.
Running a dialysis unit involves technicians, water treatment plants, reverse osmosis, consumables etc. And since the effort is to keep treatment affordable, as access is improved, clarity is required on how the programme would be funded. On an average, the cost to patient for a dialysis session ranges from about ₹500 in subsidised charitable outlets to about ₹2,000 in private institutions. And nephrologists say that patients require at least three rounds of dialysis a week (of about four hours) to clean the blood of its toxins. In India though, patients are known to take less sessions because of the cost.
So making dialysis more affordable to improve its frequency and access, especially in semi-urban and rural areas is welcome. But it will also require training more medical staff to run centres in district hospitals or outside. The Government will have to keep an eye that quality service is offered. With the demand gap being huge — about 2.2 lakh new patients with end stage renal disease added every year, creating an additional demand for 3.4 crore dialysis sessions, when the country has only about 4,950 dialysis centres — the scheme should not become an avenue for fly-by-night operators.