Chronic Kidney disease, a growing problem in Bhutan health minister

“Like in other parts of the world, Chronic Kidney disease is also seen as a growing problem in Bhutan. National statistics tell us that the number of patients diagnosed with Chronic Kidney disease is rising each year,” said the Health Minister Tandin

Wangchuk, during the event of World Kidney Day, organized by Bhutan Kidney Foundation on March 13.

The day is observed to raise awareness on how important the kidneys to the overall health and well being. “This year, through the initiative of the Bhutan Kidney Foundation (BKF), we join the rest of the world to raise awareness and educate ourselves on Chronic Kidney disease, which is a growing public health issue affecting all age groups,” the Health Minister said.

The disease is not only affecting the quality of lives of patients and their families, but also impacting the government’s scare resources.

Lyonpo shared that since 2006, a total of 83 patients have undergone kidney transplantation at the expense of the government which has cost the government nearly Nu 59mn.

Currently, 137 patients with end stage kidney disease are undergoing treatment in the JDWNRH in Thimphu, and at hospitals in Mongar and Gelephu.

Lyonpo said the government continues to enhance efforts to improve in-country care and treatment services for kidney patients. A substantial amount of health budget has been invested in the purchase of drugs, equipment and logistics required to treat patients.

As of today, the health ministry has 14 dialysis machines and more machines to strengthen the treatment efforts are being looked into.

Besides treatment, strategies to educate people and prevent kidney disease are being put in place by the ministry. The capacities of staff are also being built to improve the quality of services provided to the patients.

“Despite concerted efforts, the Ministry of Health continues to face challenges in a number of areas. The rising number of patients requiring dialysis, limited number of dialysis machines, and shortage of trained staff are common problems encountered in our hospitals today. A most worrying scenario is the high prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure and other non-communicable diseases in Bhutan, which are major risks factors for chronic kidney disease,” Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said.

This is visible as per the annual health bulletin 2013 that shows increasing numbers of cases in past five years. The number of diabetes cases that was just 2, 541 in 2008 increased to 4,097 cases in 2013 and likewise, the hypertension cases that was at 20, 347 in 2008, later increased to 27, 023 in 2013.

Lyonpo informed the general public witnessing the event, “Like many other diseases, chronic kidney disease is preventable. Therefore, it is very important that we become aware and educate ourselves on this disease. Doctors often use the term silent killers to describe kidney disease because a person can lose up to 90% of their kidney function before experiencing any symptoms. The main reason for being silent killer is that most people have no symptoms until the disease reaches an advanced stage,” he said.

The Health Minister said there is a need to pursue a more aggressive health promotion and prevention strategies to reduce the risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure, smoking and being overweight.

Lyonpo also expressed gratitude to His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the Howe’s Trust Fund, Hongkong for supporting the ministry to purchase dialysis machines.

A kidney failure patient, 33-year-old, Kinley Wangchuk, received kidney transplantation sometime in December 2012 from his sister, said he is almost normal now, however, “I would not say completely normal but I am happy to live my second life,” he said.

Kinley had initially planned on having his father as a primary donor and his sister as alternative donor, but after the medical screening and scanning thoroughly, it was found that his father was not fit to donate the kidney as he had cancer. His sister cleared the medical health checks and become the donor.

Kinley said people should take better care of their health by eating healthy food and exercising. He said mental health is important as well. “If we are stressed out, it is said that blood regulation doesn’t take place well. So my advice would be sleep in time and drink lots of water, avoid meaty and oily kind of diet, so that your kidney can be protected,” he said.

In his case, he said, “I believe there are number of unknown causes. It can happen due to genetic reasons, but in my case, I used to drink a lot of water and this should have helped. However, I am workaholic and I couldn’t sleep on time and this could have led to hypertension. Doctor says blood pressure can damage the kidneys,” he said.

He shared that by the time he was detected with kidney failure, it had already been three years. “Deterioration happens quite slowly that you don’t even notice that your kidneys are being deteriorated over time,” he said.

In the crowd, at the clock tower where the world kidney day event took place, Sangay Dema, a kidney donor proudly said that she is happy to help her brother and save his life.

Bhutan observed World Kidney Day with the theme ‘Chronic Kidney Disease and Aging’ organized by BKF.

Kidney problem is a serious issue in our country, said the Founder and Executive Director of BKF Tashi Namgay. He said that with growing number of chronic kidney cases in the country, it is important to raise awareness and educate the people on the disease.

“98 percent of kidney patients come from rural areas, and only 2 percent from urban places, with majority of cases from eastern and southern places,” said Tashi Namgay.

He also shared that most of the cases are seen in young people as unhealthy diet of mostly junk foods contributes to the poor kidney health.

Since 1974 till today, he said over 200 patients have undergone kidney transplantation.

BKF is registered on 15 August 2012 but the project initiated since 2007.

The day is celebrated every year on second Thursday of March in more than 100 countries on 6 continents. The day is celebrated across the globe to raise awareness and focusing on the importance of the kidney and reducing the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.

Tashi Deki / Thimphu

 

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