What Dialysis Patients Should Know about COVID-19


NKFI joins diverse alliance formed to educate public and advocate for kidney patients as national health crisis unfolds

CHICAGO (May 18, 2020) – Underscoring the need for heightened awareness of kidney disease and its devastating impact, the Illinois Kidney Care Alliance (IKCA) today announced the addition of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI) as a member of the Alliance. IKCA – a coalition of health advocates and professionals, community and patient groups, providers and businesses from across Illinois – seeks to educate members of the public as well as policy makers on the needs of kidney patients.

Since IKCA’s formation in February with six inaugural groups, the COVID-19 pandemic has attacked Illinois and overwhelmed its health care system. The pandemic presents unique and acute challenges for patients with kidney disease and there is also evidence the novel coronavirus attacks the kidneys.

“Adding a partner like the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois to our coalition is a tremendous boon and a reflection of the hard work that this group has been doing during this critical time,” said Kevin Cmunt, Chief Executive Officer of Gift of Hope and original IKCA member. “NKFI’s advocacy and stature in the community will ensure that our message gets out. Patients with kidney failure are a highly vulnerable population, and the coronavirus has only underscored that vulnerability.”

“Joining the Illinois Kidney Care Alliance gives us another avenue to reach out to and communicate with the people we serve. Now more than ever, we need to make sure Illinoisans understand the issues faced by people with chronic kidney disease,” said Jacqueline Burgess-Bishop, Chief Executive Officer of NKFI. “Kidney patients and their families face significant challenges in their daily lives and need help in many forms, from covering out-of-pocket costs to basic nutrition to transportation.”

IKCA’s other members now include Alivio Medical Center, American Renal Associates, Associates in Nephrology, Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, the Chronic Disease Coalition, DaVita Inc., Dialysis Patient Citizens, Fresenius Medical Care, the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, Healthy Illinois, Nephrology Associates of Northern Illinois and Indiana, One Health Englewood, Universal Family Connection, U.S. Renal Care, and West Side United.

The coalition exists to raise awareness of the needs of people who suffer from End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), a condition also known as kidney failure. People whose kidneys no longer function properly have only two options for survival: Dialysis or a kidney transplant. In Illinois, more than 30,000 patients suffer from kidney failure.

Nationwide, more than 650,000 Americans suffer from kidney failure. Of these, about 70 percent are on life-sustaining dialysis, while the rest are able to survive with a functioning kidney transplant. The incidence rate of ESRD is expected to rise in the U.S. over the next decade – and is higher among African-Americans, Latinos and people of color than among whites.

Kidney disease in its early stages often has no symptoms and therefore remains undetected until it has reached an advanced stage. For this reason, some call it a “silent disease.” It is responsible for the death of more people than breast or prostate cancer in the U.S. every year, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.