.. a philanthropist pledges to provide them with a dialysis machine

Phub Dem | Paro

For Tshering Tobgay in Paro, seeing his neighbour struggling with a kidney problem and having to travel to Thimphu for dialysis during the first nationwide lockdown moved him to act.

Tshering Tobgay, the proprietor of Metta Resort, decided to procure a dialysis machine and set up a home-like dialysis unit at Paro hospital, if provided with infrastructure and technical experts. However, the pandemic delayed the import of the machine.

While waiting to import the machine, he is providing free transportation to the kidney patients residing in Paro.

Tshering Tobgay said that the patients and attendants had to bear the high cost to travel to Thimphu for dialysis. “I hope to procure the machines and establish a unit in consultation with the hospital and Bhutan Kidney Foundation (BKF) as soon as possible.”

He added that the bus service would continue even after contributing a dialysis machine.

For those with kidney problems, access to dialysis treatment is not an issue, but reaching the treatment unit on time and travel costs are.

Kinzang Wangchuk, 37 from Satsham, started his dialysis programme in 2018 and usually commutes by bus. When he misses the bus, he takes a taxi, which costs Nu 1,000 and Nu 1,500 per trip. He said that there were about 16 of them in Paro facing similar challenges. “We are thankful to him for this generous support.”

A patient attendant, Tshering, said that they spent more than Nu 17,000 a month, only on transportation. He said that recently his wife, a kidney patient, had to wait for three hours due to a roadblock near Chuzom, adding that she was a debilitated patient and the risk was significant.

Recently, the BKF started a bus service for patients. However, according to the chief executive officer of the BKF, Tashi Namgay, the bus had to make four trips twice a week to pick up and drop off the patients. He said that such generous support from the businessman would benefit the foundation.

Highlighting the importance of timely treatment, he said, “They can survive because of the dialysis.”

He said that more than 90 percent of the patients face difficulty acquiring transplant options, among other issues. The foundation paid the taxi fares for needy patients, but it was not sustainable.

He said that the foundation would facilitate discussion with the Ministry of Health regarding health specialists and infrastructure, as Tshering Tobgay showed interest in setting the machine up at Paro hospital. “This type of intervention will benefit the patients in Paro and nearby dzongkhags.”

Considering the rising number of renal cases, he said there is a need for a dialysis machine in Paro, adding that many prefer to stay in Paro, considering the high home rental cost in Thimphu.

The number of kidney patients in the country has increased from eight cases in 1998 to 280 kidney patients today.