Eight Ahwazi patients who received kidney dialysis treatment at the Sina Hospital in the Ahwazi regional capital, Ahwaz, last week died within a few days. Experts are warning that the death toll may rise with other patients who received dialysis there on the same day still undergoing treatment.
The eight were among 50 patients who attended the hospital’s renal dialysis unit for treatment on Monday, July 25. Although none of the patients experienced any problems at the time, all being discharged following their dialysis sessions, a number were readmitted the next day suffering various severe symptoms, including severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Eight of the patients, all aged between 40 and 60, subsequently died between Wednesday and Friday of the same week
Speaking to the Iranian state agency, Tasnim News, the hospital director Dr. Seyed Saheb Hosseini said that the hospital is still conducting investigations to determine the cause or causes of the eight deaths. Dr. Hosseini said that he refused to rule out the possibility of the province’s severe air pollution being a factor in the deaths, adding that the investigation, being carried out as a matter of urgency, would determine the cause.
The Sina Hospital is the only hospital in the city which provides dialysis to the poorest Ahwazis (with the majority of Ahwazis classified as living below the poverty line), with most of those suffering from kidney problems unable to afford the cost of treatment or drugs at other private medical facilities in the region.
Health officials in Ahwaz (with the region also known by a Farsi name, Khuzestan province) have previously highlighted the problems suffered by dialysis patients at the hospital, where the equipment is dilapidated and ageing, and there are insufficient numbers of beds. These problems are exacerbated by the insufficient funding received by the Kidney Foundation of Iran, the only national body dealing specifically with kidney-related illnesses.
Following the deaths of the dialysis patients, Ahwazi activists launched a social media protest campaign to raise awareness of the case and protest against Iranian health minister Dr. Seyed Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, who the activists accuse of failing to take any serious action to protect Ahwazi dialysis patients.