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The Daily Herald OpEd: Dialysis patients need more help in pandemic

Even though the state mask mandate has been lifted, COVID-19 still poses a grave danger to people who are immunocompromised.

Consider the devastating -- and disproportionate -- toll the pandemic has taken on people undergoing kidney dialysis. In addition to being immunocompromised, dialysis patients tend to be older and poorer than the general population.

Additionally, those undergoing treatment must travel to dialysis centers three times per week and sit in a room with other patients. Many don't own a vehicle, which means they must take public transportation to get their treatment. They don't have the luxury of dealing with COVID-19 the way many of us do, because their weekly dialysis treatments are literally a matter of life or death.

Thankfully, the Illinois legislature is creating a statewide task force to focus on kidney disease patients, with the goal of creating solutions that will help them lead longer, healthier and less stressful lives.

The Kidney Disease Prevention and Education Task Force will be made up of medical professionals, dialysis and transplant recipients, state legislators, nonprofit leaders and community representatives who will meet regularly and develop a comprehensive report by the end of 2023 that will be used to support policy discussions about how to protect a vulnerable population. For example, the group will look at making home dialysis more accessible and affordable and increasing government funding to support dialysis centers.

We are all members of the Illinois Kidney Care Alliance, a statewide coalition of community groups, health professionals and businesses that work together to advocate for the needs of kidney disease patients. We are thankful that members of the Illinois General Assembly are taking action to protect dialysis patients and putting their needs first.

Jacqueline Burgess-Bishop, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer, National Kidney Foundation of Illinois

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