PHILIPSBURG-Dialysis patients of the St. Maarten Medical Center and their families and friends, Minister of Public Health, Labour and Social Affairs and SZV representatives attended among others a Dialysis/Kidney Transplant Information Session at the University of St. Martin on Thursday October 17th, 2013.
Dr. Marolijn Van Buren, a Nephrologist working in the Netherlands, gave the keynote presentation. She spoke about the role of our kidneys and what happens when someone kidney fails.
Dr. Marolijn van Buren speaks to crowd. Honorable Minister Cornelius De Weever, far left,
seated next to Manager Patient Care Antonio Pantophlet.
There are 2 possibilities of treatment for someone who has a chronic kidney disease. He or she can have dialysis or can have a kidney transplant.
In St. Maarten there is only one possibility available for these individuals, this treatment is haemodialysis.
Persons requiring this treatment are on a dialysis machine 2 or 3 times a week for 3-4 hours. These dialysis patients need to follow a specific diet and they need to take a certain amount of medications each day.
When Dr. van Buren visited the St. Maarten Medical Center two and half years ago, she was surprised to see that there are patients on the island who may be on dialysis for the rest of their lives because having a transplant on the island is not possible. Neither is there a donor list or a support system in place for them to receive a kidney.
In the Netherlands the possibilities of a kidney transplant is high, though someone may be on hemodialysis treatment for 6 years before being eligible to receive a kidney transplant.
There are 36 dialysis patients treated at the St. Maarten Medical Center. The dialysis clinic, “started out of a closet in St. Rose hospital” says Antonio Pantophlet, Manager Patient Care in his opening remarks. The department has been possible with the efforts of now retired Internist Dr. Theo Jolles and hard working nursing staff.
A group of qualified registered nurses with certified specialization in dialysis care give patients the best possible care. Recently, the SMMC has been able to attract nephrologists from Curacao to provide medical care to the dialysis patients every two weeks.
Minister of Public Health, Labour and Social Affairs, Dr. Cornelius De Weever reaffirmed that the visiting Nephrologist has assist in improving the care at the SMMC. The need for specialists and the need for the expansion of the hospital have to take place to further improve to care especially for dialysis patients.
“We cannot focus on the cost. We have to provide the quality of care that our family deserves...we need to explore the possibility of a national organ donor list on SMMC,” says the minister.
Through Dr. van Buren mediation and cooperation between the dialysis department and social work department it was possible for our first patients to go to the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam to obtain a kidney transplant. Kidney transplant coordinator Nrs. Georgina Mingau and Social Worker Rachel Hofdom presented how the SMMC gives these patients support in this process.
The SZV discussed how they have been instrumental in this process. Since then they have worked together with the dialysis department of the SMMC and their social worker to send 4 patients to the Netherlands. All of whom has been successful. The transitions has been smoothly, “when we receive the request, SMMC has already done their medical part and we send the patient away and hope for the best” Carele Martha, SZV representative. She also discussed the possibilities for dialysis patients to receive treatment aboard if they go on vacation.
At the session local author Felicita Williams gave her experience of having kidney failure as a child and leaving for the Netherlands in the early 1990 to be on a donor list while receiving haemodialysis treatment.
Years later, there are still challenges for St. Maarten patients. Receiving live donors from family and friends is still yet not common among us. Also insufficient information and myths about kidney transplant may be the cause for a lack of donors.
Participant asking a question during information session
Many persons regretted the lack of general practitioners at the session, as it is very important that kidney failure be found early. There may be the possibility to prevent renal kidney failure or there may be the possibility for someone to receive a kidney transplant before going on dialysis.
The SMMC will continue to bring awareness of the need for kidney donors on the island. In her closing remarks Anita Rotsburg, Supervisor Dialysis department SMMC, emphasised the need for St. Maarten to work toward a point where a donor list for patients on St. Maarten can be established.
Dr. van Buren was presented with a token on behalf of patients and dialysis staff for her active support two and a half years ago in getting patients with kidney failure, who had live donors, transplanted in the Netherlands.
The dialysis department will be present at the St. Maarten Medical Center Open House to give information and answer questions about kidney failure, treatment and possibilities for kidney transplantation. Persons can also receive a tour of the dialysis unit.
The Open House is at 3:00pm until 8:00pm. It will start with breast cancer lectures and continue with a Zumba session and free breast exams. The public is invited to attend and learn about the services offered at the SMMC.