“If we don’t act now to learn the lessons from places like Danila Dilba and roll out this sort of work across the Territory effectively and know that its working, unfortunately we’ll see some of the numbers in the report for 2015, showing a 70 per cent increase in the next five or so years in dialysis,
As well as all of the challenges brings with social dislocation and a huge increase in cost in the health budget.”
Danila Dilba was also seeing a large number of patients who did not know they had kidney disease, which meant earlier treatment had resulted in preventing the need for dialysis all together.
“And thus potentially saving a lot of resources as well as heartache for patients and communities, particularly remote communities, as well as a lot of money for the Government,”
Dr Paul Lawton from The Menzies School of Health Research
Photo: Patient Helen Salee talks to Dr Emma Fitzsimons at the kidney clinic. (ABC News: Lucy Marks)
“[The program] makes me feel better because I want to keep strong and healthy to see my grandchildren growing up,” Helen said.
Article Lucy Marks ABC NEWS
A kidney health program at a Top End health service is making inroads in the battle against dramatically rising numbers of patients with dialysis-dependency and renal failure.
The Menzies School of Health Research reviewed the program run at Aboriginal health service Danila Dilba in Darwin and found it was delaying the need for dialysis by 1.5 years, and improving the lives of those with advanced stages of the disease.
“We found that they’ve been very effective at reducing both the death rate and delaying progression of kidney disease towards needing dialysis,” Dr Paul Lawton from Menzies said.
The program works by integrating the management of chronic disease, coordinating treatments and empowering clients to improve their own health through lifestyle.
A key component lies in the way it is delivered to its Indigenous patients.
“Developing trust is very, very important. A lot of people are very terrified of the diagnosis of kidney disease, just like they are for diabetes,” clinic GP Dr Emma Fitzsimons said.
“We see cases of people really taking control of their health and becoming much, much stronger.”
Delma Hoat, 66, has had diabetes and various chronic diseases for more than two decades and her renal failure is managed by care at the clinic.
In her consultation with Dr Fitzsimons, she said “I reckon I might have another 10 years down, easy”, and her doctor responded “easy I reckon”.
“I met Emma, and that was it, I clicked with Emma. We seem to have something in common … the right story I guess,” Ms Hoat said.
It is the type of relationship which the Menzies School of Health Research said had proven to be key to successfully managing kidney disease.
NT the frontline of kidney disease epidemic
The success is positive news in the Northern Territory, which has the highest rate of renal failure in the world and is faced with a projected rise in dialysis treatments in clinics of 70 per cent by 2022.
For Ms Hoat, despite having multiple chronic diseases and advanced renal failure, her quality of life is looking up.
“I can feel it already within me, I’m getting stronger I’m a happier person … we laugh, we go out, we’ll be able to go fishing soon once I get the machine at home,” she said.
Another 66-year-old patient, Helen Salee, is at an earlier stage of kidney disease and not yet on dialysis.
She said she had been coming to the clinic since 2005 when she developed kidney problems.
“[The program] makes me feel better because I want to keep strong and healthy to see my grandchildren growing up,” she said.