KUALA LUMPUR: The statistics on chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Malaysia paint a bleak and frightening picture.
According to the 22nd Report of the Malaysian Dialysis and Transplant Register (2014), there has been an over 100% increase in the number of new dialysis patients in Malaysia over the past 10 years.
In the past four years alone, Malaysia has seen more than 6,000 new patients each year requiring regular dialysis.
At the end of 2015, nearly 40,000 Malaysians required regular dialysis, with 90% of them requiring haemodialysis treatment three times a week.
Each session costs around RM150 to RM200.
About 70% of all dialysis treatments are being borne through taxpayer funds, when patients are treated in public health institutions, or in the form of subsidies, given to charitable organisations or private centres that provide such services.
“We are seeing an upward trend of CKD in the country,” says Hospital Kuala Lumpur’s head of Nephrology Department Dr Ghazali Ahmad.
Ghazali told FMT this was not just because of Malaysia’s growing population as the statistics show an increase in the number of patients, expressed in per million population per year.
He says the main contributing factors to CKD in the country were increasing age, diabetes and hypertension, with 61% of dialysis patients suffering from diabetes and 18% suffering from hypertension.
Another worrying trend were the lower kidney transplant rates – the best treatment option for CKD. This is mainly down to the low number of cadaveric donors and the long waiting period for transplant surgery from live donors.
Complicating matters, Ghazali said, was that the highest number of dialysis patients were those aged 45 and above.
“Malaysia has an ageing population, and the 45-60 age group represents the majority of the workforce. So this affects productivity.”
Ghazali said the upward trend was not only worrying due to the strain on financial resources, but also the number of kidney specialists, nurses and technical staff who are required to provide clinical care and maintain the dialysis machines needed to cope with more patients.
The immediate focus, Ghazali said, would be to mitigate the growth of the disease by first arresting the growth of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
He said those who had already developed such lifestyle diseases, should contain the diseases from causing other complications such as CKD.
Ghazali said Malaysians were not doing enough to take care of their health.
“Patients need to keep track of their health. Their doctors must let them know of their health targets, such as reducing blood pressure, blood sugar levels or weight.
“Patients must work hard to meet these targets.”
Ghazali also voiced the hope that all Malaysian politicians would pay more attention to health issues rather than focus on petty issues.