Taking dialysis to communities aids improved quality health care

by Letlhogonolo Masemola

7 September 2022

• Clinical Technology Alumnus holds position at Mediclinic Renal Services that aims at improving patients’ access to renal treatment

With World Global statistics indicating that at least 10% of the world's population has some degree of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), the importance of taking care of one’s kidneys cannot be emphasised enough. Nationally, Kidney Awareness week is celebrated during the first full week of September, annually, focusing on the function and health of the kidneys. Information on kidney health is made available to the public to help create awareness of the role of the kidneys in everyday life. 

TUT Clinical Technology Alumnus and Clinical Operations Manager at Mediclinic Renal Services, Wouter De Ruyter, with Alumni Office staff Shalate Davhana and Letlhogonolo Masemola.
Image by: Tshenolo Matsimbi

The SAMJ (South African Medical Journal) also estimates that about 5 million South Africans within the age of 20 have CKD while the figure among black South Africans, is almost certainly higher than in other races.

Renal failure patients who reside in the periphery areas in the country, often struggle with access to proper haemodialysis treatment. For instance, patients in Soweto have to travel many kilometres to receive dialysis from nearby suburbs such as Roodepoort. The high demand for treatment also presents challenges, especially when there is a shortage of electricity or water, often seeing patients having to return home without receiving treatment at health facilities.

Mediclinic has launched a venture that vows to bring change to the lives of renal failure patients through a model of “the continuum of care”. Speaking from the newly established Soweto Mediclinic Renal Services treatment facility, TUT Clinical Technology Alumnus and Clinical Development Manager at Mediclinic Renal Services, Wouter De Ruyter, said that bringing the care to the community, allows the patients to remain patients at the centre, enabling them to constantly follow-up on their recovery. 

Wouter, is passionate about offering CKD patients more reliable haemodialysis. Following a comprehensive study on CKD in 2020 to determine how patient lives could be improved, by the then CEO of Mediclinic Renal Services, Brian Prinsloo, the first “state of the art” facility was opened in Bloemfontein, followed by a unit in Potchefstroom, and then not long after, the unit in Soweto was opened in order to cater for the renal needs of the patients in the area. One of the major challenges facing patients in Gauteng is that the market is not regulated, often resulting in sub-standard care that compromises the health of vulnerable patients.

Wouter credits his successful career to his Alma Mater. “The curriculum offered at TUT is coupled with experiential training, which ensures that graduates are equipped to deliver on the needs of the market as soon as they leave the University”, he said. 

According to Wouter the need for suitably qualified clinical technologists has increased due to surging patient numbers and demands. He also commended the commitment of his former lecturers Profs Danie du Toit and Juan Pieterse, who focused on the overall well-being of the students as well as the curriculum. 

Mr Frans Maloka, (one of the satisfied patients who receives care at the Soweto facility), said three months prior to starting the treatment, his health was deteriorating. He indicated that he is now getting stronger, and that he no longer gets tired like before and the locality of the facility has helped him reduce transport costs, since the clinic is nearby. Soweto has its own private facility, eliminating the need for patients to travel long distances to get haemodialysis. 

The Soweto unit has 19 dialysis stations where patients receive dialysis for 4 hours 3-4 times a week. “People come as far as Lenasia to receive dialysis. This shows the importance of having these facilities in our townships,” said Wouter.

The facility is equipped with a bio-impedance scale, which calculates the hydration status (total water in the body), body weight as well as BMI, prior to and after treatment. The data is used to evaluate the health progression of the patient and intervene where necessary. The clinic is also involved in disease prevention and care campaigns to create awareness of the dangers of renal failure.  “We conduct high blood pressure (BP) and glucose screening at malls and other public places at no cost to the public. In addition, we regularly distribute information flyers about CKD,” added Unit Manager, Maggie Mlangeni. She also emphasised the importance of doing regular check-ups/ health screenings, drinking enough water daily, exercising, and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Wouter has also mentioned that Mediclinic offers selected internship opportunities for Clinical Technologists. Mediclinic has recently awarded a bursary to a student residing in Pretoria to further their studies in the much sought after clinical technology discipline. 

The newly established Mediclinic Renal Services unit in Soweto, aimed at bringing change to the lives of renal failure patients through “continual care”. 
Image by: Tshenolo Matsimbi  

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