Patients suffer as equipment in State-run dialysis units in Karnataka are not functioning

Members cutting across party lines raised the issue in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly last week

September 28, 2022 08:46 pm | Updated September 29, 2022 10:47 am IST - Bengaluru

File photo of a dialysis centre in Bengaluru.

File photo of a dialysis centre in Bengaluru.

Harsha Naik, a 21-year-old resident of Mudanahalli in Arasikere taluk, who has been on dialysis for the last four years, was hospitalised thrice in the last one year following repeated infections.

On Tuesday, 58-year-old Siddaraju, who is on dialysis in T. Narasipura centre, had a harrowing time owing to blood clotting in the dialyser and blood tubes. Along with him, seven other patients also had a similar problem at the centre.

Several dialysis machines in the 169 State-run dialysis centres are either dysfunctional or have not been serviced causing severe hardship to patients.

“If one machine does not work, we will have to accommodate the patients on the remaining two machines as per the instructions of the Kolkata-based outsourced service provider — ESKAG Sanjeevini Pvt. Ltd. The agency coordinators ask us to reduce the dialysis hours of each patient from four to two to accommodate all patients,” a source in the dialysis centre said.

Patients at the Ankola taluk hospital staged a snap protest on Monday as some of them were asked to go to Karwar for dialysis. “I travel 40 km from Kuntagini where I reside to get dialysis at Ankola. If I have to get dialysis at Karwar, I will have to travel another 35 km, which is very tiresome for me considering my poor health,” said Ganesh Shetty, one of the patients.

RO plants

Besides, Medical Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants at many centres have a high Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) value, which is above the permissible limits and hence unfit for dialysis. The water treatment system is a critical factor for dialysis. Ultra pure water from the RO plant that enters the hemodialysis machine is used to mix the dialysate for dialysis.

“Although the water from the RO plants is unfit for dialysis, we are forced to use it as per instructions of the service provider. This is causing infections in patients,” one of the technicians said.

Patients said they were asked to buy heparin (used to prevent blood from clotting in the dialysis lines) and saline solution for the dialyser (the agent that is used to cleanse the blood of the patient) as the centres do not have adequate stock. “We are also being asked to buy the expensive Erythropoietin and iron-sucrose injections. We need this once a week but the agency is giving it once a month,” said Sudhakar K Bhat, another patient from Ankola.

Members cutting across party lines raised these issues in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly last week. Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said B.R. Shetty’s Group had gone financially bankrupt and there were problems in the delivery of service in many dialysis centres in taluk hospitals run by it. Services would be restored in two months by calling fresh tenders for hiring an agency to run centres, he said.

Penalty to be slapped

State Health Commissioner Randeep D. said penalty will be slapped on the service provider if the machines are not serviced at the earliest and consumables /medicines are not provided in adequate quantity. “They are supposed to do this as per tender conditions. If they do not do it, we will get it done from outside and deduct the amount from their payment. New tenders will be floated by next week,” he said.

New tender yet to be floated

Over 4,000 renal patients have been undergoing dialysis in 169 government-run centres across the State since March, 2017, when the dialysis scheme was awarded to BRS Health & Research Institute to manage. In July 2021, when this service provider intimated the State government that it would no longer be able to continue with the services, the scheme was managed by the Health Department under National Health Mission (NHM) from August 2021 till January 10, 2022. Subsequently, the contract of the scheme was awarded to Kolkata-based ESKAG Sanjeevini Pvt. Ltd. Although the company’s contract ended in March, the State is yet to float new tender.

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