A resident of Mountain Lakes Seniors Community has started an online petition asking Interior Health to provide a kidney dialysis machine at Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson.
Rob Wood travels to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail three times per week for dialysis, and he does not have reliable transportation.
A dialysis machine is an artificial kidney through which a patient’s blood is pumped for purification, then returned to the body. Wood started on dialysis in June 2020.
Wood has a relatively reliable ride to Trail, but getting home is more uncertain and sometimes he is forced to take a $60 shuttle service on his return trip.
“And you’re talking three times a week,” he says. “That amounts to a lot of money.”
He says dialysis treatment involves lying on a bed for four hours while the machine does its work. He says he comes out of the process tired and cold, and he is unable to drive himself. The bus schedule between Nelson and Trail is too limited for him, and the trip is inconvenient and time consuming because of the transfer in Castlegar.
According to Interior Health, there are 13 dialysis patients in the Nelson and Slocan Valley area, eight of whom are receiving hemodialysis treatment at the Trail hospital, with the remaining five receiving peritoneal dialysis at home.
In peritoneal dialysis, filtering of the blood is done within the body, not with an external machine. The decision as to whether a patient should have hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis is a medical and practical one based on the patient’s personal and medical situation.
In addition to the Trail hospital, some patients also receive hemodialysis at what IH calls community dialysis centres in Creston and Grand Forks.
There is no community dialysis centre in Nelson, says Diane Shendruk, vice president of clinical operations for IH, because of a mix of geography and cost.
From both Creston and Grand Forks, it’s necessary to cross a mountain pass to get to the regional hospital in Trail. From Nelson, the driving conditions are easier, she says.
“Also, we would need the resources in Nelson, which means the hemodialysis machine, all the consumable products, the reverse osmosis, the water system, and the availability of physicians at the site.”
She said a hemodialysis machine for Nelson would cost approximately $30,000 plus staffing and space, adding that the Nelson hospital has never had a dialysis machine.
But Shendruk says it is not just peritoneal dialysis that can be done at home. Hemodialysis can be done at home too, and she suggested Wood should explore this, while acknowledging she did not know him and was not familiar with his medical condition. She said IH would bear the costs of equipment for home hemodialysis.
Wood told the Nelson Star that IH has suggested this to him once in the past.
But he is unwilling to do dialysis at home, saying he is not confident he can run the machine or handle the technology on his own.
“One mistake and you’re dead,” he says.
Shendruk acknowledges that home dialysis can be difficult and requires extensive training. She says people who are used to hospital dialysis are sometimes fearful about taking it on themselves at home.
Wood plans to present the petition to Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson. The petition can be found at https://bit.ly/3sL6s15.
The link to the online petition was not available when this story was originally written. The link was added on Feb. 15.