By Kevin Longino, CEO, National Kidney Foundation and kidney transplant patient
I know the heightened concern you all have right now regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, and it can be unsettling. As a kidney transplant patient on a daily regimen of immunosuppressive drugs, I share your concerns.
During these challenging times facing our nation, it is imperative that patients with kidney disease take all precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which are also detailed on our website.
But even while we are all being told to stay home and avoid crowds as much as possible during the outbreak—good advice that I am also following while working out of a make-shift home office—it’s imperative that kidney patients being treated with in-center hemodialysis continue with their regularly scheduled clinic treatments.
Recently the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) released new guidelines for dialysis centers about how to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to patients and staff. We at the National Kidney Foundation put together a patient-friendly version of those guidelines, which details what to expect when you go to your next treatment and what dialysis centers should be doing to keep you safe.
NKF also developed a resource on shelf-stable foods for kidney patients and necessary precautions all kidney patients should be taking to stay safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. These resources are also available in Spanish.
We also know that many kidney patients on the transplant wait-list, or those who are pursuing a living organ donor, have been asking if they will even be able to get a transplant now that elective surgeries at hospitals have been temporarily halted. NKF sent a letter to HHS advocating for clarification that transplantations not be considered elective procedures and yesterday evening we learned that hospitals can continue to offer these life-saving transplantations if they can safely do so.
We are still working to ensure that access to vascular access procedures for patients with kidney failure who care currently on hemodialysis using a central venous catheter (CVC), and patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) who are rapidly approaching dialysis within the next two to three months will be allowed during the COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue to provide updates on this important subject.
In the coming days and weeks ahead, we will add new information on important topics and other essential resources for patients to kidney.org/coronavirus.
I know that these are uncertain times, but I want to assure you that throughout the COVID-19 crisis, NKF will be working around the clock to ensure that the best possible safeguards are in place to protect our kidney patients and all those who care for them. Moreover, we’re here to listen, learn, and support you during this time. Please contact our toll free patient information help line by calling (855) NKF-CARES, (1-855-653-2273) or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. And please join our free online discussion forums.