Free blood tests, medicine in addition to $600k for kidney patients


By Fareeza Haniff

In addition to receiving the annual $600,000 grant from the government to help with the cost of dialysis treatment, the Ministry of Health will now put systems in place to assist patients with free blood testing and also provide them with a specific medicine free of cost to help treat their red blood cells.

These announcements were made by subject minister Dr Frank Anthony at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Friday where 76 patients received their $600,000 cheque.

Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony hands over a $600,000 cheque to one of the patients (Photo: Ministry of Health/April 1, 2022)

A total of $180 million was set aside in this year’s budget for the distribution of the grant to almost 300 patients who suffer from kidney failure and on Friday, the first set of 76 persons received their cheques from the government.

The patients are expected to use this money to help offset the cost of the very expensive dialysis treatment they have to undergo on a weekly basis – some two to three times per week at a cost of $12,000 per session.

This has proven to be a huge financial burden for most people who desperately need the life-saving treatment. And as a result, some of them do not show up for the treatment because they simply could not afford it.

James Singh, former Head of the Guyana Forestry Commission, was moved to tears as he recalled the difficulties endured during his eight-year battle with the disease.

James Singh

“If you look at the cost per year for dialysis alone, it runs into almost $2M and this $600,000 is almost 30 per cent.

“On behalf of all the dialysis patients, I want to say thanks to a caring government and….also this will go a long way in making our lives better,” Singh said fighting to hold back tears, adding “it is something that is very much needed because a lot of people cannot afford it.”

On the other hand, Joel Semple, a dialysis patient for some four years was ecstatic because he can now afford to get his treatment weekly.

“I think it’s a great help because before I couldn’t afford it; I used to [be hospitalised often]; at one time I thought I would have died, I gave up…this $600,000 came in so nice, you wouldn’t even believe it.

“Everything you getting from this government right now is nice, it will help a great lot. You don’t know the struggle to get that money to go and pay and the pain you does go through.

Joel Semple

“Sometimes you gotta study if you gon eat or go and do dialysis,” Semple said.

Semple, a resident of Kitty, Georgetown, undergoes treatment three times per week.

Dialysis treatment is being offered at the Georgetown Public Hospital and some private hospitals including the Woodlands Hospital, the St Joseph’s Hospital, the Anamayah Memorial Hospital in Region Six and the Doobay Medical centre at the New Amsterdam Hospital also in Region Six.

The government has also provided space at the Linden Hospital to the 5G Dialysis Center so patients have easier access and more recently, the Ministry of Health has been in discussion with this same company to expand the service to Region Two. This should be done later this year.

But in addition to this, the Health Minister also announced that the government is working to implement a system where dialysis patients who have to undergo blood tests every month are given the opportunity to do these tests for free at public hospitals.

“When you look at it, if you have to go to the private [hospitals], it will cost you a lot of money. So, we are going to put some mechanisms in place to allow that the laboratory tests that you need to get done, that we are going to do that in the public sector.

Some of the kidney patients registering for their $600,000 grant (Photo: Ministry of Health/April 1, 2022)

“So, one of the things that we’re going to be meeting the providers of dialysis is that when they’re required to get laboratory tests done, that they can send those samples to our labs and the public sector will be able to do those tests for you free of cost,” Dr. Anthony said to resounding applause.

Dr Anthony also announced that kidney patients with red blood cell issues will soon get the medication to treat this free of cost hopefully by the end of the year.

Another form of assistance that will soon be rolled out by the ministry is the treatment of kidney patients who are infected with Hepatitis B or C.

This is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs.

And in Guyana, it could not be treated because the cost is too high, according to Dr. Anthony who noted that it costs about US$2,000 to treat one patient.

But the Health Ministry is now working with PAHO to reduce that cost.

“So, in another couple of months, we would be launching a programme where all the patients infected with Hepatitis C, we will start treating them and the treatment…could cure at least 97 per cent of those patients,” the Health Minister noted.

He revealed that about 10 per cent of kidney patients are diagnosed with this infection in Guyana.

According to Dr. Anthony, the government understands the challenges and difficulties of patients and will continue to improve the level of care provided.

He urged the patients to ensure they use the $600,000 grant for its intended purpose, noting that it is not a one off payment but a yearly one.


Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony noted that while the government sets up the infrastructure, maintaining standards at these centres is important, and so, the Health Ministry in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) brought in a consultant a few months ago from Argentina who conducted a preliminary assessment of the facilities here.

Dr. Anthony said the consultant who manages one of the largest dialysis centres in Argentina, has recommended certain standards.

Some of the kidney patients and their families at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre waiting to receive the $600,000 grant (Photo: Ministry of Health/April 1, 2022)

“The reason we’re doing that is because we want to make sure that when patients go to anyone of these dialysis centres, that you can go there with the confidence that they’re meeting certain international standards so that you know the quality of care is guaranteed,” the Health Minister posited.

He said a second consultant from PAHO will be here to continue the assessment.

“We’ll be working with each one of the dialysis providers to ensure that these standards are kept at every single one of the dialysis facilities that we have in Guyana.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.