Hama countryside’s only dialysis center struggles to meet patients’ needs

Twenty-five-year-old Mohammed Qasim has been suffering from the complications of kidney failure for more than three years. He had been receiving dialysis treatment in the Hama National Hospital in regime-controlled Hama city as were no dialysis machine in the Hama countryside, controlled by rebels, where he is from. However, since the opening of a dialysis center in Jabal Shahshbou, he no longer has to deal with the hassles of to regime territory, although the situation at the center is far from ideal.

Because of the difficulties of getting into Hama city—being hassled at regime checkpoints for being from an opposition controlled area—Mohammed had thought about going for Turkey for treatment. He ended up not going because of the cost of the trip and the high cost of living in Turkey.

There are more than dozens cases like Mohammed, suffering from not just kidney failure but very limited options for dialysis treatment in opposition controlled areas. The dialysis center in Jablal Shahshbou, Mohammed and others like him of an alternative to treatment, albeit limited by the modest resources of the center.

The center has two dialysis machines and recently acquired a machine for patients with Hepatitis C, which has spread amongst patients undergoing dialysis. Mohammed himself is one of these patients. The problem is the lack of PCR testing equipment—equipment that tests for Hepatitis C—in opposition areas, on top of issues with sterilization procedures.

Mohammed told the Syrian Voice “there isn’t treatment for viral kidney infections in opposition controlled areas, although it is widely available throughout the rest of the world, including regime areas. The success rate of this treatment is 95%. It is available in Turkey as well, but only for Turks, not Syrians.”

Patients at the center face other issues as well. Perhaps the biggest is that the center has to close down from time to time due to the threat of regime bombing raids. According to a frequent patient at the center, “myself and others have been forced to cancel our appointments at the center when there are threats of bombardment, which means we have to look for a hospital in the Idlib countryside for treatment.”

What makes struggling with getting treatment so difficult is that patients need three dialysis sessions a week, with each session lasting for hours. However, due to with continuous aerial bombardment in the region, patients can only undergo two three-hour sessions a week, according to a medical source at the center.

Additionally, the center only has very basic medical supplies and expertise.

“The center lacks necessary things like the epoetin injections, which are expensive, as well as a doctor who specializes in working with kidney failure. So, the dream of all of us with kidney failure is to be able to go to another country for better treatment, usually Turkey because it is close and has the treatment,” said Mohammed.

The Jabal Shahshbou Center, founded in October 2014, has 16 patients who receive dialysis treatment there. Two medical technicians work there, but no doctor.

Abu al-Zein, the director of the center, told the Syrian Voice “the lack of a specialized doctor means that we have to try and fill this role, on top of operating and maintaining the machines.” He added that “two of the center’s machines treat patients who don’t have a Hepatitis infection, and the other is specialized for those with an infection. However, one of the problems is that we don’t have medicine for Hep C and B, which is very expensive.

“We also need a central desalinization center so that we can properly run the machines. Currently, the one we use is very small and can’t supply all the machines.” said the director.

Eventhe building itself is very simple, said Abu al-Zein.

“All we have is a tinplate roof.”

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