Dialysis patients need back-up plans during natural disasters
Any interruption to a patient’s kidney dialysis schedule can not only be life-altering, but life-threatening.
When a natural disaster or other disruptions occur, it can hamper outpatient dialysis facilities and send kidney patients scrambling for services. A new study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology discovered that many regions are ill-prepared to aid dialysis patients in an emergency.
For the study, 357 Manhattan dialysis patients who received hemodialysis before and after Hurricane Sandy, which hit three years ago, were interviewed during the next year-and-a-half. About 26 percent of the patients missed dialysis sessions, and about 66 percent received dialysis at non-regular dialysis units, according to the study.
Research revealed that a few dialysis centers did offer patients emergency packets, which include individualized medication and contact information for surrounding dialysis centers.
“Any interruption to a dialysis patient can be deadly,” says Dr. Paul Crawford, nephrologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “It is serious enough that if we get a patient who has not shown up for dialysis, we follow up with calls. If we don’t hear back, we’ll contact the police to check on them. It’s that serious.”
Hemodialysis is a life-preserving treatment for those with kidney failure. A patient has their blood cleaned through filtration through a dialysis machine. It removes waste from the blood, extra fluid from the body and restores the proper balance of electrolytes in the blood. All of this results in better kidney function.
Dr. Crawford offers several tips for dialysis patients in an emergency, including examples from last winter’s blizzard. Back then, he says hospitals worked with police and fire departments to identify people who needed dialysis.
During the blizzard, dialysis centers also expanded their hours throughout the week and stayed open on Sundays to accommodate those who had to skip a day because of the lack of transportation. If the electricity does go out, hemodialysis machines can be operated manually.
“Disasters affect all of the population, but patients with specific needs such as dialysis are especially vulnerable,” study author Dr. Naoka Murakami said in a news release. “There is a need to strengthen both patients’ and dialysis facilities’ awareness and preparedness to improve outcomes in natural disasters.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.