By Jennifer Vardy Little
“Dialysis is really a part-time job without pay,” Richard Cameron says.
The Kentville man knows how exhausting it is to spend hours in a car after undergoing five hours of dialysis treatment. Since August, Cameron has been receiving dialysis three times a week in Berwick, after losing his kidney transplant of six-and-a-half years. Before his transplant, he received dialysis treatment for more than five years.
At one point, Cameron had to receive his dialysis in Halifax and drive more than an hour each way after undergoing the treatment.
“You don’t feel all that good after dialysis, and that hour and a half drive is killer,” he said. “There were a couple of times I’d have to pull over. Even driving to Berwick was hard.”
With a $1 million provincial funding announcement on Nov. 28, Cameron won’t have to worry about travelling so far for treatments, however. Kings North MLA Jim Morton announced a new, 12-chair satellite dialysis treatment facility would be built at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville. The investment is for twice as many chairs as are currently available in Berwick.
“Glee,” said Cameron. “That’s how I felt when I found out. I live about three minutes away. This is going to give me a lot more quality time at home.”
The unit will provide services to people from Annapolis Royal to Windsor and surrounding areas. By building it on-site at Valley Regional Hospital, it will provide patients with quick and easy access to emergency and lab services, said Dr. Ken West, head of the Division of Nephrology at Capital Health.
“This is wonderful news for patients with kidney disease in the Annapolis Valley, many of whom spend hours each week travelling to and from treatment, in addition to hours on the dialysis machine,” he said. “The government, by investing in a dialysis unit at the Valley Regional Hospital, will make it possible for sicker patients to receive treatment closer to home, reducing some of the burden on patients, families and the community.”
This is the second unit of its kind, said West. Doctors from Halifax will travel to the site and see patients in Kentville every month, or use the Telehealth system in between those visits.
“That’s a big benefit, because patients in Berwick are still having to go to Halifax to see those specialists every three months,” he added. “Now, they won’t have to unless something serious happens and they require services other than dialysis.”
Kentville was strategically chosen, he said, based on researching current dialysis patients and looking at where people who may need dialysis in the future live.
It will take some time before the new unit is ready, said Tim Guest, vice-president of Acute Care and chief nursing officer at Annapolis Valley Health.
“We’re looking at locations, we’ve considered out back, but we really haven’t gotten that far,” Guest said, adding that the unit will mean an addition to the hospital to accommodate the recommended space around each dialysis chair. “We’re going to look at the size of the building we need; we want something attached to the hospital.”
It is expected to take two years to build the unit, beginning with design work in the coming months.