Kidney patients are among the high-risk groups of people with chronic medical conditions who may experience more serious COVID-19 illness. While kidney patients are being encouraged to stay home and avoid crowds as much as possible during the outbreak, those treated with in-center hemodialysis must also continue their scheduled dialysis clinic treatments, which are prescribed three to four times a week.
“It is extremely important for kidney patients to continue with their regularly scheduled dialysis treatments and take extra precautions when visiting the facilities to best protect their health,” said Joseph Vassalotti, MD, Chief Medical Officer of National Kidney Foundation (NKF). “Skipping dialysis can lead to serious adverse effects and increases the risk for hospitalization. Using social distancing, washing hands as much as possible, staying away from those who are clearly sick, and streamlining travel routes as much as possible from home to the dialysis clinic can all help reduce the risk of contracting the virus.”
“All kidney patients, including those with chronic kidney disease (CKD), those treated with home dialysis, and kidney transplant recipients should partner with their healthcare teams to postpone routine face-to-face medical and dental visits, substituting video or telemedicine visits whenever feasible,” added Dr. Vassalotti.
Dialysis patients should closely follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Kidney Foundation also urges every kidney patient to be prepared with the necessary supplies at home should an outbreak occur in their community. Resources on shelf-stable food items and information on how to stay safe are available on kidney.org.
“Americans treated with dialysis have the right to expect that their facility is implementing the highest safety precautions necessary to reduce the risk of infection,” stressed Dr. Vassalotti. “If dialysis patients are feeling ill, they should contact their dialysis care team ahead of time so that they can be properly assessed to organize ongoing dialysis care safely.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued guidelines to dialysis facilities on March 10, 2020 on how to safely dialyze this high-risk population amidst a national health crisis. NKF developed a patient-friendly version of the guidelines, available at kidney.org, which explains what patients should expect from their dialysis clinic at each visit, and who to contact if their dialysis facility is not implementing these safety precautions.
Two weeks ago, in order to protect our kidney patients from the COVID-19 threat, NKF postponed the annual Kidney Patient Summit, which was to take place this week in Washington, DC. Similarly, NKF transitioned its annual Spring Clinical Meetings (SCM) from an in-person meeting attended by 3,000 nephrology professionals to a live-virtual meeting. This necessary change will help ensure the safety of our patients, staff, volunteers and conference participants while still enabling NKF to provide the high-quality content SCM is known for in a new live-virtual format. In addition, all in-person local events scheduled from now through June will either be turned into a virtual format, postponed, or in some cases canceled to best protect our patients, volunteers and staff. NKF will continue to monitor new information from the health authorities and our patient community to update regular communication.