On the eve of World Kidney Day, healthcare professionals warnedthat nearly 100 million people in India could be suffering from some form of kidney disease, which can be fatal if untreated. “We have 1,50,000-2,50,000 people in India who are confirmed as suffering from chronic kidney disease, of which less than 5% are able to afford the treatment,” said H Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals. The cost of treatment starts at Rs 3 lakh a year. “The reality is that most people, being unable to afford these costs, die a slow, painful death,” he added. Healthcare activists said the high cost of healthcare is responsible for the problem. A review of basic tariffs and charges by Manipal Hospitals shows a bed in a shared ward costs Rs 2,200 per day while a bed in a suite costs Rs 10,000 per day. Anil Kumar, a nephrologist, said government healthcare schemes such as Ayushmaan Bharat could help close this gap, although the medical coverage scheme was currently only effective in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.
“The real cost of kidney failure treatment is incurred when it comes to dialysis and transplants,” Dr Kumar said. “A patient with failing kidneys needs to be on dialysis at least three times a week, but only a transplant is a long-term solution to the problem. The government of Karnataka has a scheme where it offers two dialysis sessions free of charge.” The standard cost of dialysis treatment in a private hospital is roughly Rs 25,000 per month, while a transplant can cost as much as Rs 6 lakh. According to statistics collected by health officials worldwide, kidney diseases claim nearly 600,000 lives every year. In India, the annual death toll is over 10,000. Complicating the issue is the fact that 42% of diabetics develop chronic kidney diseases later in life. In hard figures, nearly 70 million Indians suffer from diabetes, with a larger number being in a pre-diabetic state. Dr Ballal described India’s transition from a “famine to feast” state as being partly responsible for the crisis. “India was a country with widespread malnutrition and our genetic makeup was geared towards addressing a reduced intake of food. Now, we have food available in excess leading to the development of unhealthy eating habits,” he said.