Healthcare With Compassion: DSGMC’s free dialysis centre a great model for public health services

Healthcare With Compassion: DSGMC’s free dialysis centre a great model for public health services
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In a praiseworthy initiative, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has launched what it describes as India’s biggest kidney dialysis facility within the premises of the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib complex in New Delhi. The Guru Harkishan Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Kidney Dialysis Hospital will offer dialysis facility to 101 patients simultaneously and it can cater to 500 patients daily. What’s truly remarkable is that dialysis services at the facility will be offered completely free of charge. As the DSGMC has stated, there is no billing or payment counter at the facility, and all running costs will be covered through corporate social responsibility funds, individual donations and government schemes like Ayushman Bharat.

Additionally, the dialysis infrastructure here is said to be technically the most up to date in the country, and the DSGMC already has plans to scale it up to a 1,000-bed facility. This is truly a great healthcare project. As someone with a family member suffering from end-stage kidney failure, I know how much of a financial and emotional burden the disease and dialysis treatment can put on patients and their relatives. My mother-in-law, who lives in Guwahati, has been on dialysis for the past seven years. Apart from the physical stress of routine haemodialysis – which in my mother-in-law’s case is done twice a week – there is a significant additional financial burden on such patients on account of medicines to manage other complications arising out of the disease and treatment. For example, over time dialysis patients develop cardiovascular issues, suffer from lack of production of red blood cells and face bone health abnormalities. All of these subsidiary conditions need to be managed through long-term monitoring and medication in addition to dialysis itself.

Taken together, for many dialysis patients the monthly healthcare expenditure can be as high as Rs 50,000. And this lasts for the entire duration of the patients’ lives or until they can get a successful kidney transplant – the latter having its own set of complications and challenges. In this scenario, DSGMC’s free dialysis service is a huge boon for chronic kidney patients. The facility will substantially reduce the financial burden for the patients and is practically godsent for poor patients who can’t afford treatment costs. In fact, 70-80% of those who develop end-stage kidney failure every year in India start dialysis. However, two-thirds of them discontinue treatment due to financial constraints. Add to this the fact that the number of Indians suffering from chronic kidney ailments has doubled in the past 15 years, and at present 17 in every hundred citizens suffer from some form of kidney disease. It is estimated that some 150-230 persons suffer from end-stage kidney disease in every million people, and about 2,20,000-2,75,000 new patients need renal replacement therapy every year. The number of patients undergoing dialysis in India is also increasing by 10-15% annually.

Therefore, there is a huge unmet need here primarily due to the financial burden of treatment. But one free-of-cost dialysis centre in one city is not enough. The model needs to be scaled up and spread across the country. And aggregating CSR funding to establish and operate dialysis centres with zero or nominal charge for patients is a good idea. For, one thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown is that healthcare cannot be given the short shrift. And capacities created in normal times can boost protective and treatment response during pandemics. In that sense, the DSGMC’s free dialysis centre ought to serve as a model for providing healthcare services in the country.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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