‘Third World’ Kidney Care Claim

Kidney patients in Wales are suffering “Third World” conditions with renal units at breaking point, claims a charity.

Kidney Wales Foundation said some were going “hundreds of miles” a week for treatment in “unacceptable” conditions.

It said at one hospital, dialysis was carried out in an “old broom cupboard”, and at another 16 patients were treated in a portable cabin sharing one toilet.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said she was considering treatment provision.

At the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen, 16 patients receive dialysis in a portable cabin, sharing one radiator and one toilet, according to the foundation.

Alex Cottrell, 55, who has dialysis sessions lasting almost four hours, three times a week, described the facilities as “appalling”.

Mrs Cottrell, who lives near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, works in a nursing home on the days she does not have treatment.

She is driven to hospital by volunteer drivers, in a car along with three other people.

One of those is an 80-year-old man who is picked up at 0530 BST, and does not return home until mid-afternoon.

Mrs Cottrell said the treatment was “very painful”, as two big needles were inserted so blood could be taken out and cleaned by machine.

She said patients were unable to hear the televisions provided, and more comfortable surroundings, and being able to hear programmes would be a “distraction”, and help patients psychologically.

“When I’m on the machine, sometimes I’ve got to gee up the person next to me to come to the next session,” she said.

“People have low moods, especially if you’ve got a chest infection, vomiting, or diarrhoea, you’ve got to do this journey the same.”

Ms Cottrell said having nearer facilities would make life easier and having the treatment “more bearable”.

The foundation, which promotes kidney research and care, also claimed that facilities in Morriston Hospital, Swansea, were so stretched patients were treated in an “old cupboard” attached to the ward.

John Reever, chair of the Welsh Kidney Patients’ Association said the cupboard known as “the dingle” was “claustrophobic and unsafe”.

But hospital management at Swansea denied they had converted a “broom cupboard” into a makeshift dialysis station.

Liz Rix, Swansea NHS Trust director of nursing, said the area had originally been a machinery storeroom and had later been used as an isolation cubicle, before it was converted into a dialysis station just outside the renal ward.

A campaign entitled People Like Us is being launched by the Kidney Wales Foundation, and the Welsh Kidney Patients’ Association.

It is being led by Allison John from Fishguard, who was the first in the UK to have a heart and lungs, liver and kidney transplant.

She said: “Subjecting sick patients to treatment in poor facilities and making them wait hours to get home is simply not acceptable in the 21st century.

“We need more dialysis units across Wales and better transport arrangements as a matter of urgency to prevent sick and vulnerable people from having to make long journeys several times a week.”

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: “The [health] minister has met with The Kidney Wales Foundation and she is considering the provision of dialysis treatment in Wales.”