For 60-year-old Fatima (name changed) who is a kidney patient, her nightmare of contracting the highly contagious novel coronavirus disease turned came true recently.
A resident of Safdarjung enclave she told IANS, "two to three visits to the hospital for a four hour long sessions per dialysis were already quite painful and frustrating, the pandemic situation had instilled a sense of fear in me that I might contract the virus, and that really happened."
Not only did she suffer but the disease was also passed on to four of her family members. The coronavirus outbreak has virtually halted the entire world including India and the lockdown announced in the nation to control the rising number of patients has thrown unique challenges for the health systems, particularly Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients who are under haemodialysis.
The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has also clarified that Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients on dialysis are vulnerable to the deadly virus because of their existing co-morbidities and repeated unavoidable exposure to hospital environment and immunosuppressed state. This is where home-based dialysis therapy like Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) is coming to people's rescue.
Speaking to IANS, Dr A.K. Bhalla, Co-Chairperson, Department of Nephrology of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said, "Under the current pandemic situation, patients suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease are more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to low immunity. Haemodialysis patients have to travel to hospitals at least 2-3 times a week to get their dialysis, exposing themselves to various infections in a healthcare setting.
"As a solution to the current situation, Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) offers dialysis which can be done at home by the patient. There are multiple benefits of PD as a therapy but most notably, modern PD enables patients to maintain their lifestyle and independence while offering potentially better clinical outcomes at a substantially minimal cost."
According to Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Program (PMNDP), India has over two million dialysis patients who routinely drive to a dialysis centres especially for haemodialysis, two-three times a week as missing any session could be life-threatening for the patients. This poses a huge challenge in the current nationwide lockdown situation in response to COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Indian government has made significant advancement by introducing Peritoneal dialysis under Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme (PMNDP) in 2019; there is a dire need of implementing PD in all the states to meet the growing needs of Chronic Kidney Disease patients during COVID-19 who are particularly vulnerable to infection and may exhibit greater variations in clinical symptoms and infectivity.
Dr Sunil Prakash, Senior Director and HOD, Nephrology Department, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, said, "COVID-19 has posed a tremendous challenge in front of the entire nation, especially to the kidney patients. These patients are required to travel to hospitals and clinics for haemodialysis, risking their lives while travelling to the hospitals amidst the deadly virus.
"In many cases, the patients act as a carrier of infections to other people including their near ones and doctors as well. Hence, for the protection of all, patients can opt for Peritoneal Dialysis (PD), which can be done at the convenience and safety of their homes and doesn't require frequent visit to hospitals. By following simple steps, hand hygiene, PD can be a safe and ideal solution in the current situation and otherwise."