Govt to pay for costly treatment for dialysis patients living with Hepatitis C

Government will be absorbing the exorbitant costs for dialysis patients who have contracted hepatitis C, to be treated in the coming months. The aim is to cure some 98 per cent of persons.
Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony announced on Friday that when persons are taking dialysis, they can develop infections – one of which is hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Presently, the Health Ministry cannot treat such patients given the cost for individual patients.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony

But a programme is being crafted through the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), and will now cover such persons visiting health facilities.
“With hepatitis C, even when we made the diagnosis, we were not able to treat patients. The simple reason was that the cost to treat a patient was very high. Right now, that cost would be about US$2000 per patient…One of the things we have been working with the Pan American Health Organisation is to bring down that cost. In another couple of months, we will be launching a programme where all the patients with hepatitis C infections, we will start treating them. This will cure at least 98 per cent of those patients. This would be another way we will work with you,” the Minister told dialysis patients.
Dialysis is a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly. It often involves diverting blood to a machine to be cleaned.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that may be caused by viruses, drugs, alcohol, or some hereditary or immune problems. Those who undergo dialysis are at increased risk of getting hepatitis B and C. The virus can be transmitted from the use of multidose drug vials and contamination of medical equipment. Hepatitis B and C may cause liver infections that can lead to serious complications, including liver cancer, liver failure or death. While there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, a person can get vaccinated for hepatitis B.
Nephrologist at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, Dr Hemchand Barran has recommended patients to have frequent check-ups to ensure that their overall health is intact.
“You have to get regular check-up. It is recommended that you follow with your doctor at least every two months and get regular check-ups done. Dialysis is not one constant treatment that you do over and over all the time. It requires regular and frequent assessment. Even when you are at the dialysis centre, your doctor should be checking in to see how things are going,” Dr Barran advised.
Quality dialysis, he noted, remains paramount in ensuring healthy patients. This week, Government commenced distribution of its flagship $600,000 annual assistance per patient. In this year’s budget, the Government allocated $180 million to support some 300 dialysis patients who require a series of dialysis treatments.
Additional mechanisms will be put in place to ease the hefty burden facing patients. In the near future, much-needed laboratory tests for dialysis patients will be processed through the public system.
By the end of the year, Erythropoietin – a costly medication which patients would normally purchase independently – will be sourced through Government and distributed. (G12)