There are not only too few donated kidneys but also an inadequate number of nephrology specialists to treat patients with kidney disease, experts told the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee on Tuesday. The special session was held to mark Israel Kidney Day, held to encourage live donors to give one of their kidneys to save a life.

Acting committee chairman MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) called on the Health Ministry to recognize nephrology as a distressed medical specialty with too few doctors and nurses.

In addition, he said, the number of outpatient beds for kidney dialysis must be increased, especially in the periphery of the country.

Michaeli also called on the Welfare and Social Services Ministry to increase funding for patients undergoing serious medical treatment.

Health Ministry Prof. Ronni Gamzu said his office is constantly watching to ensure that treatment for kidney patients is accessible and at a high level.

“No dialysis institute that does not meet such criteria will receive authorization to function, Gamzu said.

“We have 700 kidney disease patients waiting for a donor kidney, and an organ can solve their problem. I call on citizens to show mutual responsibility, to donate and to sign an ADI organ donor card.”

There are long queues for kidney specialists, said Avi Avraham, chairman of the Association and Protection of the Rights of Kidney Patients.

He complained that it was very difficult for patients to compare the quality of the various dialysis institutes because there was no objective measure of comparison.

Kidney diseases are the fifth most common cause of death in Israel. Last year, there were over 5,700 patients undergoing dialysis due to kidney failure.

During the last 20 years, a Knesset research paper said, the number of dialysis patients has more than tripled. In 2010, nearly a million dialysis treatments – in which kidney-failure patients are hooked up for hours several times a week for the removal of waste from their bloodstream – were performed.

This compares to only 230,000 treatments in the 1990s.

The number of licensed nephrologists totals only 222, of which 174 are younger than 67. The number of young residents going into the specialty is small and doesn’t reach the number of specialists who retire, the Knesset report said. Adding 50 new kidney specialists to the list would solve the problem, it concluded.

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