Radio Interview with Michael Rowland on ABC News Breakfast

Transcript of Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt's AM, MP radio interview with Michael Rowland on ABC News Breakfast.

Page last updated: 07 March 2018

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7 March 2018

Michael Rowland:
Now around 1,000 Australians are waiting for kidney transplants, yet barely a third of the population is registered as organ donors. The risk of kidney disease is much higher amongst Aboriginal people; a fact that Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt knows only too well. His own cousin, Jason Bartlett, died last year from kidney failure complications. Jason was just 36.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised the following contains images and voices of people who have died.

[Excerpt]

Jason Bartlett:
Since I was 19 years of age, diabetes – what it’s done to my body - and my whole health just deteriorated it. It basically grabbed it and squashed it like a can. It just made my kidneys fail and when the kidneys failed that's when my eyes started failing. And it was hard because it meant that Jamie, my wife, had to help out a lot more than what she did.

[End of excerpt]

Michael Rowland:
And the Indigenous Health Minister, Ken Wyatt, joins us now from Canberra. Minister, good morning.

Ken Wyatt:
Good morning, it's good to be with you.

Michael Rowland:
Very good and firstly, sorry for your loss.

Ken Wyatt:
No, it was unfortunate and this brings home that key message that: don't be blind to kidney disease because you can lose 90 per cent of your kidney function before you even notice the symptoms and that was the challenge in Jason's case.

Michael Rowland:
Tell me about Jason.

Ken Wyatt:
A very vibrant young man. I've watched him over a number of years, sort of grow up, enjoying life, but his love of music was an incredible strength that developed him as the personality, the character, great sense of humour. And losing him- I had hoped to have caught up with him a couple of days before he passed away but that didn’t eventuate and it was sad that I did miss saying goodbye to him.

Michael Rowland:
Why is kidney disease much more acute amongst Indigenous Australians?

Ken Wyatt:
It's a question that goes back to in utero birth. We have to have a healthy birth weight. I had a roundtable in Darwin just recently and the nephrologist was saying to me that you're born with 1.5 million nephrons. Now, Aboriginal children born underweight are likely to have only 65 per cent of those nephrons, which means they're behind the eight ball. Every infectious disease, skin disease, that they experience, including obesity, high blood sugar levels, slowly destroy those nephrons and then ultimately it has that impact at the end of their life when you get end-stage kidney disease and then live with a dialysis machine.

Michael Rowland:
Speaking about the broader population, Minister, and it's an issue we often discuss here on Breakfast: the supply of kidneys is not keeping up with the demand for people in urgent need of organ donations. How do we address that shortage?

Ken Wyatt:
Well, the important element to this is for Australians to become organ and tissue donors and, by doing that, you make yourself available to give a gift of life should anything adverse happen to you. We've got about 6.4 million Australians on the Organ Donor Register, but we certainly need more. But what's important too is there are living donors who is a family member who often will give one kidney to their brother or sister or son or daughter. And that helps in prolonging life and that incredible gift gives family the opportunity of spending time with the one that was initially affected, and you see people go on to live for many, many years and enjoy a great family life.

Michael Rowland:
We're in the midst of World Kidney Health Week and the message this year is: don't be blind to kidney disease. So what advice are health authorities trying to get across to people who suspect they might be afflicted by kidney disease?

Ken Wyatt:
Well there's a couple of things. One is you should always have your kidney function tested and checked. When you go to your GP, just ask if you can have a check or, alternatively, you can go to kidney.org.au; do the online assessment and, based on that assessment, it will give you some advice and suggest that you go and see your GP.

Michael Rowland:
Minister Ken Wyatt, thank you so much for joining Breakfast this morning.

Ken Wyatt:
My pleasure, Michael.

ENDS

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