Word-Class Renal Clinic in Soweto

A new Mediclinic Renal Services clinic, in the heart of Soweto, brings world-class chronic kidney care directly to the community. 

Sister Maggie Mlangeni is passionate about what she does. As Unit Manager at our new Mediclinic Renal Services facility in Soweto, she is responsible for ensuring her patients receive first-rate service and care. 

“We all have the right to healthcare,” she says, “but in Soweto, there are very few clinics where patients who need ongoing dialysis can go for treatment”. “They are far in distance, and it can be expensive to get to them regularly. We realised that if we bring this service to our people, we can improve their experience and quality of life.”

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a major health problem in South Africa. It’s often caused by high blood pressure and diabetes – themselves highly problematic and common conditions in this country. CKD is a devastating diagnosis that involves a complex, life-long treatment process. 

The disease is caused by damage to vessels inside the kidneys, which hamper their ability to do their job: removing waste products and fluid from the body. Usually, patients won’t present with early-stage CKD symptoms until the disease has progressed, says Mlangeni. This is because symptoms are often unclear in the early stages, as the organs adapt to damage very effectively. 

“We can’t see renal failure from the outside, just by looking at a person,” she explains. “But the damage is being done on the inside – as the waste products are building up, the body is being ‘poisoned’.”

Gradually, as the kidneys become more damaged, patients may notice symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and muscle cramps. Once the damage is too far gone, it’s irreversible, which means patients with kidney disease or renal failure require ongoing treatment for years. 

“Doctors use blood and urine tests to diagnose kidney disease, and if the patient’s condition has progressed to the point where they need ongoing treatment, we are here to help.”

Patients with kidney failure will usually benefit from one of three types of treatment: haemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, or a kidney transplant. While transplants are commonly performed at Mediclinic’s Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Mediclinic’s Renal Services clinics across SA offer world-class haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis treatments. 

Dialysis is a complex process that involves removing toxins from the body either on a dialysis machine (haemodialysis), or by using the body’s membrane (peritoneal dialysis). During haemodialysis, patients will connect to a dialysis machine, and with peritoneal dialysis, patients are fitted with an abdominal catheter to use at home. 

“We have patients whose kidneys do still have some function in that they do still produce some urine, but where the clearance of toxins is poor. And then we have patients with no kidney function at all,” says Mlangeni. “These patients come for treatment three times a week and receive treatment on the dialysis machine for a period of four hours per session. Patients performing peritoneal dialysis dialyse at home. With peritoneal dialysis patients we schedule regular visits to lend support and assistance with the process.”

Mediclinic Soweto Renal Services is also branching out into paediatric dialysis for children born with abnormalities that cause their kidneys to function sub-optimally. 

For patients in the Soweto community, travelling to these treatments can be costly and time-consuming; but they’re also crucial; without dialysis, CKD can severely compromise a person’s quality of life. “Being here is our way of showing respect, a bit of love,” says Mlangeni. “These are our people, and we want to help them live healthier lives.”

Image credit: Theana Breugem

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