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Lack of kidney machines hurting kids' survival chances

Published:Friday | March 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Paediatric nephrologist Dr Maolynne Miller. - photos by Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

With the country's public health sector languishing without a much-needed renal facility for children, it's been a painfully wearying time for poor Jamaican families with loved ones ailing from the merciless onslaught of malfunctioning kidneys.

But the ailing kids are not alone in their predicament - medical and health professionals who seek to administer their expertise to ease the anguish of the young are scrambling for a place of relative comfort for their charges.

"Right now, we don't have any facility specifically for the Bustamante Hospital for Children," paediatric nephrologist Dr Maolynne Miller told a Gleaner Editors' Forum yesterday.

The prognoses outlined by veteran nephrologists at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) were worrying.

Between 1985 and 2000, some 65 per cent of Jamaican children suffering from end-stage kidney failure did not make it.

Miller disclosed that about 40 children in Jamaica are suffering from chronic kidney disease who are in dire need of their own space. "We are now in the process of trying to raise money for the construction of a paediatric unit where children can be dialysed without being in competition with the adults.

It is in this vein that the team of which Miller is a part has approached CHASE.

Indications are that if it were not for the generosity of the director of the Caribbean Institute of Nephrology at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Professor Everard N. Barton, many more would have succumbed.

Said Barton: "It's a dire situation; there are really no facilities at the moment for children."

Moving to expand unit

Barton also revealed that the Jamaica Kids Foundation is in the process of moving to expand the dialysis unit at the UHWI to include a wing for children.

He was supported by Miller. "That fund-raising venture will soon start, but at the moment, the children are being dialysed with the adults at the UWI and we are the only persons who do the children, some of whom come to us from as far as Montego Bay … . The trouble is finding a place to stay."

Barton was supported by Miller. "We are not able to provide the resources that will help us reduce the number of patients that is going to end-stage kidney failure," she disclosed.

Miller noted that between 2011 and 2006, kidney failure claimed the lives of 44 per cent suffering from the disease.

"The improvement in survival over the 1985-2006 period was due to the fact that Prof Barton was willing to accept children on the adult dialysis programme," Miller revealed. "Not everybody who is an adult nephrologist is comfortable with doing this, so while our survival rate has improved, it wasn't the same experience at the Bustamante Hospital for Children," she added.

There are three paediatric nephrologists who have been at the UHWI since 1984 when Miller came on the scene.

But while Gooden and Miller continue to work under less than suitable conditions to save the lives of the young, they rely on the adult unit at the UHWI.

"We are now dialysing younger children because we still have access to Prof Barton's unit at the hospital," she said. "But it must be remembered that every child that goes on the adult programme dumps an adult."