Tonga’s Ministry of Health says claims that 60 people have died from chronic kidney disease
are false and says it has never promised to establish a dialysis unit in the kingdom.
Speaking to Kaniva News, Dr Sione Latu said the claims of 60 deaths was an exaggeration.
He said the last clinical audit in 2016 showed 38 cases who would be on dialysis if they were overseas, of whom five subsequently died. This was in line with world statistics.
Dr Latu was responding to claims reported in the New Zealand media from a Tongan man who was admitted to Middlemore Hospital two days after he arrived in the country with end-stage kidney failure.
“There was never a promise to establish a dialysis unit here in Tonga,” Dr Latu said.
He said the Ministry had begun talks with the Tongan Dialysis Foundation (TDF) which wanted to establish a clinic.
However, he said the TDF needed to fulfil several requirements before the Ministry could
endorse plans to establish a private clinic in Tonga.
These included establishing links with kidney specialists, making a financial plan, proving the project was sustainable, addressing issues of financial transparency and addressing
suggestions that the Crown Prince be named as patron.
He said the TDF had not met the Ministry’s requirements.
“Sustainability is vital,” Dr Latu said.
“If MOH endorses TDF’s project, then when things go wrong we either get the blame or
clean up the mess which will likely incur huge costs to us.”
Dr Latu said the Ministry could not run its own programme because it would eat up 20
percent of the annual health budget for less than one percent of the population.
“This is not equitable distribution of meagre resources,” he said.
It cost about NZ$60,000 per patient per year for haemodialysis and NZ$35,000 per patient
per year for patients who could have a dialysis bag inserted.
With about40-50 odd patients with end stage kidney failure needing replacement therapy,
the final figure would be close to TP$5 million, without considering setup costs.
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