Patients with renal failure who require dialysis treatment will no longer have to wait months to receive that treatment.
Relief is coming as the Ministry of Health has authorised 16 private health institutions to provide dialysis treatment within five days of the ministry's receipt of an application from a patient.
Health Minister Fuad Khan made the announcement during the launch of phase two of the External Patient Programme (EPP) at the ministry's Park Street, Port-of-Spain, head office yesterday.
He said patients could apply through the EPP or the Regional Health Authority (RHA) for assistance, following which they would be referred to a private centre close to their location.
Regarding payment for the treatment sessions, Khan said each patient would be provided with a cheque so they could sign off on the payment immediately after receiving treatment. In this way, he said there would be accountability, as the requisite checks and balances would be enforced.
Previously, patients diagnosed with renal failure had to wait for as long as two years to access grants from the ministry.
In many instances, patients were forced to utilise their own funds to access treatment, which could cost as much as $2,000 per session, with some patients requiring as many as three sessions per week.
Admitting it was not an ideal for patients to be waiting for months for treatment at one of the previous four government-appointed facilities, Khan said he was forced to intervene because those institutions were overwhelmed by the number of requests for treatment sessions.
Khan also appealed to citizens to revise their diet and sugar intake in order to avoid becoming diabetic or hypertensive.
Claiming that younger people were now seeking treatment for a host of diseases which were previously diagnosed in people 50 years and older, Khan said, "Because of the large volume of people needing dialysis, the public health institutions are overwhelmed and we are trying to increase the hours for dialysis."
He said RHA heads had been mandated to explore longer working hours, as well as the possibility of providing treatment on the weekends.
In the first quarter of 2014, the ministry spent $5.2 million to provide dialysis treatment to 352 patients.
Khan said this figure had increased during the second and third quarters, and that a total of $26.6 million had been spent by the end of last year on dialysis treatment for 1,800 patients. This figure does not include patients who were approved and are still awaiting treatment.
He said the 16 centres had provided a "reasonable" figure for each treatment session but noted that the ministry was continuing its effort to prepare two 100-bed wards at hospitals in the north and south to accommodate patients requiring extensive medical treatment.
In addition to the accountability of this new initiative, Khan said similar checks and balances were being put in place for CDAP, HIV/AIDS and Oncology patients
List of private health institutions providing dialysis treatment:
1. Barrackpore Medical Centre - 735 Papourie Road, Lower Barrackpore
2. Caribbean Kidney and Dialysis Institute Ltd - 239 Western Main Road, Cocorite
3. Corner Stone Haemodialysis Services Ltd - 206 Caroni Savannah Road, Charlieville
4. Cross Crossing Medical Centre Ltd - Oliver Avenue, Coconut Drive, Cross Crossing, San Fernando
5. Freeport Medical Centre - 105 Freeport Mission Road, Freeport
6. Health Net Caribbean Ltd - 144 Munroe Road, Cunupia
7. IME Dialysis Centre - 60 Donaldson Street, San Fernando
8. John Hayes Memorial Kidney Foundation - 20 Willis Street, Belmont
9. Medcorp Ltd - 18 Elizabeth Street, St Clair
10. Nova Medical Centre Ltd - 22 Mausica Road, D'Abadie
11. Princes Town Dialysis Centre - Railway Road, Princes Town
12. Trinidad Dialysis Centre Ltd - 49 Independence Avenue, San Fernando
13. V'med Ltd - 14 Princess Margaret Street, San Fernando
14. Westshore Medical - 239 Western Main Road, Cocorite
15. AANDCO Healthcare Ltd - 47 Eleanor Street, Chaguanas
16. Majterrence Dialysis Centre Ltd - 5 Uquire Road, Fireburn, Freeport