2 Feb 2018

No promises for dialysis in Tonga

6:56 am on 2 February 2018

Tonga's Ministry of Health says the government has never promised to establish a kidney dialysis unit in the kingdom.

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A needle is inserted for dialysis. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Dr Sione Latu said the Ministry could not fund its own programme because it would eat up 20 percent of the annual health budget for less than one percent of the population and it is not equitable distribution of meagre resources.

However he said the Ministry is in talks with the Tongan Dialysis Foundation which wants to establish a private clinic.

Dr Latu said claims 60 people have died from chronic kidney disease are an exaggeration.

A maze of tubes carries blood to the dialysis machine.

A maze of tubes carries blood to the dialysis machine. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

He told Kaniva News the group needs to fulfil several requirements including securing specialists, and a sound financial plan before the Ministry could endorse their plans.

Tonga's health ministry head, Dr Siale 'Akau'ola, says he endorses the view of his colleague Dr Sione Latu because the country does not currently have the capacity to provide an adequate facility.

"It's not so much about establishing it but really sustaining it so that we are able to provide the appropriate maintenance, the appropriate staff, and of course the supplies that are required to run the unit," said Dr Siale 'Akau'ola.

He says talks with the privately run Tongan Dialysis Foundation, which aims to establish a private clinic, broke down when the ministry would not offer any endorsement before the project scope had been agreed.

Dr Sione Latu said sustainability is vital and if the Ministry endorses the agency's project then when things go wrong the government would either get the blame or have to clean up the mess which would incur huge costs.

Dr Latu's comments come after a Tongan in danger of being deported from New Zealand, said it would be a death sentence if he was sent home because there was no dialysis treatment available.

A former rugby international has had to remain in Romania for the past few years because of kidney failure and the need to get treatment there.

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