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Non-communicable diseases expected to increase

Health Minister Nickolas Steele - resources will be diverted to address increases in non-communicable diseases among COVID-19 infected individuals

The Ministry of Health is expecting to see an increase in non-communicable diseases as a result of persons being infected with COVID-19.

According to Health Minister Nickolas Steele, there has been a “correlation between persons who have had COVID-19, and an increase in blood sugar and blood pressure,” which are among non-communicable disease comorbidities that can lead to kidney disease.

He was at the time responding to questions posed by THE NEW TODAY during Tuesday’s post-Cabinet media briefing in St. George’s as he outlined plans to remove COVID-19 restrictions amidst a low test positivity rate in the country.

Noting that “our health systems right now have never been stronger,” Minister Steele said, “we do expect to see coming out of this pandemic an increase in those non-communicable diseases”.

“So, we have to strengthen those areas…we have been spending so much time focused on COVID-19, we now need to pivot, and focus on the areas that have been ignored, or have not received the attention because of limited resources (that) had to be directed to COVID-19,” he said.

“…I speak specifically to the non-communicable diseases, diabetes, hypertension, cancer… the treatment of these non-communicable diseases; so, dialysis, oncology, our very own A&E (accident & emergency) we remain vulnerable (and) we are saying as the Ministry of Health that while we endorse, support, and lead this charge in going back to normal we also remain vulnerable, and it is that balance that we have consistently spoken about between life and livelihood that now necessitates this new step…” he added.

This week the President of the Grenada Patient Kidney Foundation (GPF), Marva Gilkes spoke about an “increase in the number of younger persons being affected with kidney problems” , some as young as 20 years old coming down with “end-stage kidney failure.”

Presently, the Kidney Foundation is working with 27 patients, who each require three (3) dialysis treatment sessions per week – one (1) session costing EC$$695.00.

It is public knowledge that due to financial constraints, most persons can do only two (2) blood transfers per week and in some cases only one (1).

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The Ministry of Health is planning to commission a new renal replacement therapy unit at the St. George’s Hospital.

According to Minister Steele, discussions have been held with various stakeholders to put together a fee structure that will result in a “significant decrease” in the cost of dialysis treatment but when probed by members of the media, he was not in a position to provide fee structure details.

“The new fee structure would be made available to the individuals who require dialysis and to individuals who are visiting who may need dialysis as well,” he remarked.

The new dialysis unit should have been launched last Thursday to coincide with World Kidney Day, which was observed under the theme: “Kidney health for all, bridge the gap for better kidney care” to raise awareness on the important function of the kidneys.

However, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Shawn Charles disclosed that there was “a slight delay” in order to resolve issues that stemmed from an “analysis that was conducted” which called for “additional tests to be done to enhance the pressure of water supply to the unit. So, right now we are awaiting on an additional connection to the unit that will ensure that the water pressure delivered is high enough to ensure that the machines function optimally,” explained CMO Charles.

He also told reporters that the island currently has an “ample supply of vaccines available to the public” for Covid-19 and encouraged vaccination among the population since only one-third of the people have taken the jabs.

Dr. Charles said that “vaccination has been proven effective at controlling this pandemic, and limiting the pressures on our hospital system.”

Since the virus was first detected just over two years ago, approximately 38, 000 Grenadians have been fully vaccinated against the deadly virus.

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