Increasing dialysis cases, Samoa’s failing health and that Sunday toanai

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here’s a thought. There are times when we think we are moving forward when we are not. The reality is that we really are going backwards. 

It happens a lot more frequently than we care to think.

The thought came to mind after reading the story titled “Kidney dialysis services to expand” published on page 5 of the Samoa Observer on Thursday 22 November 2018.

The story quoted the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, talking about plans to expand the National Kidney Foundation so that it would soon have 60 dialysis units, a major increase from the 27 machines it currently has.

According to the Minister, the plan is to cater for the increasing number of dialysis patients needing treatment both in Upolu and Savai’i.

 “We are continually struggling to keep up with the number of people needing dialysis,” said Tuitama. “We have gone from just five patients in 2005 to 125 patients who require regular treatment.”

But that’s not all. The Minister goes on to reveal that some 300 more patients are in the ‘pre-dialysis’ stage, awaiting treatment.

Don’t get me wrong; the Government ought to be commended for responding to the need of members of the public by acquiring the necessary tools, facilities and equipment. It is good to see that they are proactive in terms of providing treatment and cure. 

But here is the irony and the sad truth; the current situation is a clear indication of a failing health system where more and more people are on their deathbeds. With due respect to people undergoing dialysis treatment, we know once you start, there is no turning back. 

And yet in Samoa today, more and more people are queuing up waiting for their turn. Don’t you think this is sad? With the increase from five patients in 2005 to the number we have today, this obviously points to a very sick population in Samoa. 

We know this. Lifestyle diseases in Samoa are endemic. We have got some of the worst statistics when it comes to high blood pressure, obesity, gout and diabetics to name a few. 

The question is why? How did we get to where we are? The reality is that it’s almost like we’ve accepted the reality of a sick population so that everything is geared towards their exit. This is sad.

Can this situation be turned around? And where do we begin?

One of the many ways it could be done – and it is already being done to a degree – is to increase awareness of prevention and care. We cannot stress enough the importance of preaching the prevention measures. We want our people to avoid ending up where they are heading today. 

This is why we encourage programmes such as Nobesity Samoa and other similar initiatives who are getting to the community, especially young children. We need to catch them young so that they think right. 

Interestingly, in the same article, this is the message being pushed by Mulipola Lose Hazelman, the General Manager of the N.K.F.

 “We have a big problem with NCD’s (non-communicable diseases) in this country,” he said. “The majority of people on dialysis have end-stage rental failure because of unmanaged N.C.D’s, and we are seeing patients younger and younger all the time.”

So what is the solution?

Education and prevention is key, said Renal Services manager Christina Poloai.

 “When someone comes in for treatment their whole family brings them in to support them,” she said. “So while we have them all there we take that opportunity to educate them, and make them aware this is all preventable.”

Did you know that free kidney screenings are available at N.K.F? 

See, chances are if they catch kidney related problems early, there is a possibility they can help delay the progression of issues like diabetes, hypertension and avoid dialysis altogether. Which is wonderful news. How many of our people are taking advantage of this? How many of us care enough to even want to find out?

Which brings us to another point. We cannot just point the finger to the Government and public health officials. Everyone must take responsibility for their own health. We see so many awareness programmes about different health related issues but many of them are falling on deaf ears. Most of us don’t care until we are about to die. 

It’s about time we change our attitudes and take our health a little more seriously. The state of dialysis treatment in Samoa is a timely wake up call for all of us. No one is safe, we are all vulnerable if we continue the way we are going today.

The good news is that for some of us there is still a chance to turn it around.

Where do we begin? Well today is Sunday; do you really need to have all that food for the toanai? Must you have four slices of povi masima, five turkey tails with a side of deep fried chicken to be followed by a bowl of ice cream and more? Must you pour the whole bag of sugar in your tea? Stop for a minute and think about it. 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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