No commitments made to offer dialysis at Montague hospital

·3 min read

THREE RIVERS — Bev Johnson believes it's time that Three Rivers residents like herself have access to dialysis at a nearby hospital.

"It's too difficult," the 84-year-old Brudenell woman said about travelling back and forth to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment. "So difficult we had to get an apartment in Charlottetown."

P.E.I. has 130 hemodialysis chairs, which are necessary for people whose kidneys aren't working properly. About 100 Islanders are currently making use of them, and the closest chairs for residents of southern Kings County are at hospitals in Charlottetown and Souris. Kings County Memorial Hospital in Montague used to take care of dialysis patients but stopped at some point at least 10 to 15 years ago, according to The Guardian's archives.

But, while a full review of KCMH's services is underway, the province will not commit to re-establishing dialysis treatment there.

Such a move would require an investment of equipment and specialized staff, said Health Minister James Aylward during Thursday's sitting of the legislature. As well, the space at KCMH is a concern, Aylward said.

"I, unfortunately, can't make a commitment today to having dialysis in Montague," he said.

Montague-Kilmuir MLA Cory Deagle, who initiated the line of questioning, asked again whether KCMH could be set up to offer dialysis sometime in the future, noting the effect that travelling has on dialysis patients.

"What I can commit to is that we will continue to provide dialysis across P.E.I. to any Islander who requires it," Aylward replied.

Deagle hopes that it'll be offered at KCMH sooner rather than later.

"Dialysis is a complex medical issue that can be mentally and physically exhausting," Deagle said. "It really takes the energy right out of them."

It's the reason Bev and her husband, Douglas, decided to get an apartment in Charlottetown. Bev's treatment is three times a week and lasts for two to three hours in the mornings, but it's largely the 40-minute drive they'd have to make to and from Brudenell that had them concerned.

"(Because) any drive over 15 minutes will decrease your life expectancy," Douglas said.

He referenced the opening of the Tom Peach Renal Dialysis Clinic in Glace Bay, Cape Breton last month, which is only a 25-minute drive to Cape Breton Regional Hospital. A reason for the clinic's opening was studies indicating that excessive travel for dialysis treatment increases a patient's mortality rate.

"Delivering dialysis closer to home is very important to the patients in terms of reducing suffering, reducing travel times and cost for the family and burden on the family," Dr. Tom Hewlett of Nova Scotia's health authority told the Cape Breton Post last month. "It also makes a difference in terms of their outcomes."

While the Johnstons' apartment has helped make Bev's treatment smoother, it's an expense not all patients can afford. To her, providing dialysis at regional hospitals should be the goal to reduce the detrimental travel times, she said.

"If they can spend $5 million for an electric school bus, surely they can spend a little money for dialysis at the Kings County Memorial Hospital," Douglas added.

Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian