We would like to acknowledge that 2021 has gotten off to a very tough start for many of you. We have seen a dramatic resurgence of the virus since Christmas and the consequent lockdown may be particularly difficult to handle. This has come after the disappointment of the HSE’s provisional listing of renal patients aged 18-64 years old in the 7th category out of 15 for the roll-out of the vaccines.
We can assure you that the Irish Kidney Association has been busy on your behalf behind the scenes. We would like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on what has been happening in relation to the impact of Covid-19 on the following:
· Covid-19 Vaccines
The National Renal Office has issued a new advisory to all the dialysis units around the country. It covers the need for patients to refrain from eating during dialysis as an infection control measure. We have been reassured that if you need to eat during dialysis (if you are diabetic for example) that you can discuss with the nurse in charge of your shift and arrangements will be made.
There should continue to be no sharing of transport organised by your dialysis unit and those making their own transport arrangement should be claiming for the agreed reimbursement amount of 30c per kilometer through their dialysis unit.
Please continue wearing your mask if using organised transport and when you are in your dialysis unit. Also, follow the official advice on good hand hygiene. If you are experiencing any problems which cannot be resolved locally please let us know.
At the time of writing, kidney transplant operations are still happening in Beaumont as the clinical team in the Hospital has put in a COVID free pathway and have put in place extra measures to protect patients.
Some patients awaiting living donor transplants may have their operation dates rescheduled due to either contact with COVID cases (potential or confirmed) or for you to receive the COVID vaccination prior to surgery. This reduces risk for patients. If your operation is rescheduled, you should now have a vaccination appointment, so please discuss with your transplant coordinator if this is not the case.
The number of deceased donor operations may also decrease as ICU’s are under severe pressure and may not have the capacity to deal with potential organ donors.
The situation is changing daily, and operations may have to cease due to COVID pressures but it is very clear that the Beaumont team are doing everything in their power to keep transplant operations going.
As mentioned above, we are aware of the anxiety and frustration that came with the announcement that renal patients aged 18-64 years old would only get vaccinated in the 7th cycle. We have argued from the time of the announcement that people living with Chronic Kidney Disease (whether with a functioning transplant or receiving dialysis treatment) were specifically listed as an extremely vulnerable group in relation to cocooning and as such should be given greater priority in the roll-out of the vaccines. We are in agreement with the National Renal Office that CKD patients should be on the same level as nursing home residents in the vaccine roll-out plan as the proven mortality rates both here and overseas are just too high.
We have followed up with our international contacts to strengthen the medical case for re-prioritisation. The American Society of Nephrology and the British Transplantation Society have both put out statements that reinforce the points that we have made. We have also written to the Minister for Health to make our case with copies going to NPHET,HSE the Immunisation Committee, political party Health Spokespersons and the HSE. You can find the letter to the Minister here. Questions are also being asked in the Dail.
We have partnered with 18 other health charities under the banner of IPPOSI (Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science & Industry) to lobby for the re-prioritisation of people with chronic and rare diseases. A collective letter has gone to the Minister and follow up is planned to ensure this is a high priority for the Minister.
If you have the energy to contact your local TD and tell your story, this would also be very helpful.
As soon as we have concrete information in relation to the Covid-19 vaccines we will share it through our website and across our social media channels. As with all medical matters we encourage you to discuss any concerns you may have with your consultant / medical team.
Adapting to the changing circumstances:
The board of the IKA, along with the staff, have been busy working on new plans to develop the suite of services available to serve our membership going forward. We look forward to shortly launching our new strategy document that will guide our development over the coming years. We are excited about the level of interest in the Better Living programme and we are looking at developing a structured peer support network amongst a range of other activities.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, we very much want to hear from you. Engage via our Branch network, make contact via social media, email or phone, join Transplant Team Ireland.
Reach out and connect for together we are stronger.
Carol and the IKA Team