KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of kidney patients are facing a tough time as the Health Ministry has not approved subsidies for haemodialysis treatment thus far this year. Some are reported to have waited for as long as three years for the nod.
The number of approvals for the RM600 monthly subsidy began to decrease in 2011, and became minimal from mid-2012.
NGO-run haemodialysis centres said they were told by the Health Minitry to source for funds elsewhere as it was focusing on new patients.
They also said that some patients had waited for the subsidy approval for as long as three years, instead of the usual one to three months.
In Malaysia, the poor receive heavily subsidised dialysis treatment but due to the shortage of government-run centres many turned to those managed by non-profit NGOs.
Through these NGO-run centres they could apply for RM600 dialysis subsidy (RM50 per dialysis) per month and free injections.
A random check revealed that the National Kidney Foundation had 200 patients still waiting for subsidy, 50 patients in St John’s Pt Selangor in Klang, 40 in dialysis centres run by a religious body that declined to be named, 22 at Pontian Rotary Haemodialysis Centre, and five patients in KL Lions Renal Centre.
The actual number of the affected poor was not known but it could be in the thousands going by the estimated 5,000 new kidney patients diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure each year in the last three years.
Patients affected appear to be from NGO haemodialysis centres as those in private and government dialysis centres did not have to deal with subsidy applications.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, treatment for a patient who undergoes haemodialysis at an NGO or a private clinic costs between RM150 and RM250 per session.
The Malaysian Registry of Dialysis and Transplants said that as many as 7,088 (26.9%) end-stage renal failure patients had haemodialysis treatment at NGO centres out of 26,404 patients receiving dialysis treatment last year.
The remaining 13,159 patients (49.8%) sought treatment at private dialysis centres and 6,157 patients (23.3%) at public facilities under the Health Ministry, university hospitals and Defence Ministry hospitals.
A nurse who declined to be named said that Muslims had less issues with getting the subsidy as they could apply for aid from the Baitumal or zakat foundation.
Some NGO haemodialysis centres were not happy that the Government had pushed patients to them without providing the needed subsidy.
The halt in subsidy was also depleting the rolling fund of the centres since some NGOs help to pay for their patients’ dialysis treatments, a dialysis centre manager said.
“If they make it difficult for patients to get the subsidy, they should just get the patients to do it at government dialysis centres,” she said, adding that such centres were limited.