Every year two lakh patients in India are required to undergo kidney dialysis, but owing to the cost—Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 for a single procedure—only three per cent of them can afford the treatment. A group of professionals in Bengaluru is working to change this and make dialysis affordable for poor patients.
The Bangalore Kidney Foundation (BKF) has assisted thousands of patients afflicted with chronic kidney diseases. With 40 dialysis machines at its disposal, the centre treats poor for free or for a minimal charge of Rs 375 per procedure. It is the single largest dialysis centre in Karnataka.
The eight trustees of the foundation, who come from non-medical backgrounds, are professionals in their own fields. “There is no state funding for kidney patients and only NGOs provide financial help. We have devised various methods to generate funds for installations of dialysis machines and subsidising the procedures to make it totally free for poor patients,” says the founder-chairman of BKF P Sriram.
BKF has initiated a scheme where a patient from the economically weaker section can be adopted by a sponsor, who will bear all his expenses. Till date, the foundation has conducted over 126,000 dialysis sessions, of which approximately 62,000 have been free for the underprivileged.
Their recently launched ‘Total Care Dialysis’ programme envisages rehabilitating an otherwise able-bodied renal patient, particularly in the age group of 20-45 years.
From 1979 to 2015, it has been a long and eventful journey for BKF. Now based at Rangdore Memorial Hospital in Bengaluru, they conduct 25,000 dialysis procedures per year.
While raising funds is easy, running the day-to-day operations is the diffcult part. “It’s a very tough task as we have to manage our own professions as well as the foundation. I run an engineering company and juggling the two has been difficult. However, we have survived, and so many individuals and organisations have come forward raising funds for a noble cause,” says Sriram.
Taking the CSR approach, many companies like Cognizant, Infosys, Texas Instruments and others have come forward to help financially. But this is not enough, so they regularly take up awareness drives in Bengaluru. Even a small amount of `4,000-`5,000 goes a long way in funding free dialysis. “There are many volunteers who manage our website, collate data, counsel, motivate and adopt patients. We also hold an annual music festival in memory of our patient Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, the doyen of Hindustani classical music. The Dwani-BKF music festival in September every year attracts the greats of Indian classical music who perform for free to raise funds for the poor,” says Sriram.
The inception of the foundation was inspired by an incident in 1978 when a scientist of IISc, Dr Bapat, went into a coma. Since Bengaluru had no proper medical facilities then, he had to be airlifted to Mumbai. His classmates and a few friends got together to set up the first dialysis centre in Karnataka, the Bangalore Kidney Foundation.
Explaining their motto, Sriram says, “Our policy is that only the poor should benefit. Every month, we do 250 free procedures while another 150 is done at half the rate. Our model is based on the principle that we do not take any loan or infrastructure from anybody but all capital equipment is given by donors.”
The patients are not randomly selected as every deserving patient has to undergo background checks. Mary from Hessarghata in Bengaluru has been coming to the foundation for almost a decade. She has undergone 1,680 procedures in the last nine years and is grateful for the full support she has received from the foundation.
Not just dialysis, BKF also looks after the nutritional needs of the patients. “Depending on their condition, we give them rice, dal and breakfast or lunch,” says Sriram.
The BKF chairman hopes to add more facilities. “Our kidney transplantation unit will take off in the next six months as we have already identified 17 patients for this procedure who can afford to pay `50,000,” he says.