A professor of Medicine, Ikechi Okpechi, has appealed to the Federal Government to scale-up the coverage of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for end-stage kidney disease treatment to save more lives.
Okechi, a researcher at the Division of Hypertension and Nephrology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, made the appeal while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Ibadan.
He said that making treatment, including dialysis for kidney failure, cheaper and more accessible, would help reduce mortality rate and provide adequate palliative care for people with the disease.
The professor said that because most patients could not cope with the high cost of renal treatment, it often resulted in high rate of treatment withdrawal and eventual death.
“There is the need to improve on kidney disease management in Nigeria and indeed many countries through adequate funding and universal health coverage had been able to reduce the mortality rate and help save more lives.
“Government must get involved in the care of chronic kidney diseases through adequate funding.
“This is because anywhere in the world, dialysis, which is the available treatment for kidney failure, other than transplant, is very expensive and most people cannot afford out-of-pocket payment for dialysis.
“It is quite unfortunate that many people are dying in Nigeria because they cannot afford dialysis payment.
“Many African countries have adopted various methods of getting government involved in the payment for dialysis,” he said.
Okechi particularly cited the case of Cameroon where, he said, government covered up to 70 per cent of cost involved in dialysis for each individual.
“In South Africa, government has a process whereby dialysis is given to some people who meet certain criteria,” he added.
Okechi said that the prognosis for kidney failure in Nigeria remained abysmal due to the prohibitive cost of dialysis therapy and renal transplant.
According to him, the only alternative to dialysis is renal replacement therapy or kidney transplant which costs between N7 million and N8 million.
The researcher called for greater advocacy and emphasis on preventive measures to reduce the impact of chronic kidney disease on the society.
“Prevention of chronic kidney disease involves regular health checks and healthy lifestyles, including low salt intake, good hygiene practices, limited alcohol intake and non-exposure to tobacco smoking,” the researcher noted.
The cost of dialysis is about N30, 000 per session and the NHIS covers only three sessions.
The Nigerian Association of Nephrology (NAN) had recently revealed that about 25 million Nigerians suffer from end-stage kidney disease, with about 18, 000 needing dialysis every year.