A total of 33 kidney dialysis and transplant patients have died as a result of COVID-19 in Ireland, the HSE National Renal Office (NRO) has said.
It is already known that people with underlying conditions are at an increased risk of complications and death from COVID-19. However, dialysis and kidney transplant patients have been identified as being particularly vulnerable as they have multiple pre-existing medical conditions.
According to the NRO, as of June 4, 33 patients - 29 dialysis and four transplant patients - have died from COVID-19. Twenty of these deaths occurred in April.
A total of 119 patients with end stage kidney disease were diagnosed with COVID-19. The NRO noted that "this level of infection is significantly below the UK experience and is comparable to that reported in Europe".
Furthermore, there has only been one new case of COVID-19 infection in a dialysis patient reported since May 8.
The NRO highlighted that despite the risk to dialysis patients, they could not cocoon as recommended by the Government, as they had to attend hospital or satellite dialysis units in person three times a week.
"This exposed them to a high risk of contracting COVID-19 and therefore serious illness and even death. The NRO monitors the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 in haemodialysis units in Ireland and it was evident that the number of cases was rising significantly, by approximately 20 patients per week throughout March and early April," the NRO explained.
It said that in light of this, the office changed its guidance, and with the support of HSE procurement, supplied all haemodialysis patients with surgical masks to be worn.
"These were distributed during the second week of April. Patients were advised to wear these masks constantly from the time they were collected from their home and throughout the duration of dialysis until they returned home again. In addition, on April 14, it was recommended that patients should not eat on dialysis," the NRO said.
These measures, in conjunction with community efforts to suppress the virus, led to "a rapid and sustained decrease in COVID-19 infection in dialysis patients, by 50% during the last two weeks of April, and 80% by early May", the NRO added.
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