Ensuring Care For Dialysis Patients During A Pandemic

When the lockdown was announced, I handed over my professional responsibilities as CEO to the CFO of my company so that I could dedicate my time and resources towards the cause of those most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. I have been on the board of trustees of Bangalore Kidney Foundation (BKF) for 15 years. In November 2019, the trust started a new dialysis center, one of the largest in India with 65 dialysis machines and performing 3000 dialysis per month at a highly subsidized cost to patients. Some of the core leadership team were themselves vulnerable and hence had to stay at home. I decided to take over the running of the dialysis center end to end. 

Dialysis patients are immune-compromised and are very susceptible to COVID-19 infection. They are likely super hosts. They need three dialysis per week and if they miss it, they lose basic immunity. Our patients are daily wage earners or below poverty line citizens. The lockdown meant no income, increasing costs and the compulsion of stopping dialysis. In the first week of the lockdown we saw almost a 30-40% drop in dialysis. 

Our immediate priority was to ensure that all patients got their dialysis - no matter what.

We addressed problems in funding, transportation, PPE and supply chain to ensure that this happened. We set up stringent screening for symptoms, contact and travel, and isolated suspect patients and facilitated testing. Due to these measures, our dialysis center, despite catering to a section of society where social distancing is challenging, has not reported a single COVID-19 positive case. Funds raised for COVID-19 relief, including a grant from the McNulty Foundation's Global Response Fund, in partnership with the AGLN, have been deployed for comprehensive renal care of the first 80 of approx. 300 patients, thereby playing a significant role in containing the community spread of coronavirus. 

When I took over, we redefined the metrics to put the patients and health care workers in the center and our focus was on arresting the spread to flatten the curve. The extension of the lockdown brings with it fresh challenges, but the experience of the last few weeks should help.

I have found this phase confusingly challenging, gut wrenching and yet, deeply gratifying. It’s also reinforced what we have discussed several times in Aspen - the impact of leadership. 

Posted by Kartik Sriram on Apr 25, 2020 12:35 PM America/New_York
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