Never second-rate services
The recent decision by the provincial government to consolidate hemodialysis services in Summerside and Charlottetown by closing the units in Alberton and Souris will have a huge impact.
It will have an impact not only on the health of those currently receiving the treatment, but also on their financial situation and on the lives of their families and friends.
Dialysis patients already have to deal with weakened health and the stress their condition and this life-saving treatment create. In making this decision the government has made their situation worse. It simply isn’t right.
A person on dialysis must already make many changes and adjustments just to receive treatment at the Western Hospital. Imagine what this decision will mean for these patients. Instead of traveling a short distance to the dialysis unit in Alberton, these patients will now be forced to travel, in some cases more than one hour each way, three times a week to the unit in Summerside. While the dialysis treatment is life-saving, it can also be debilitating and they are advised not to drive following a session.
With no public transit in West Prince, dialysis patients will be forced to rely on family and friends to drive them to and from Summerside. The stress and financial burden this will put on them, and those who will be responsible for transporting them, could become unbearable.
In the winter travel can be difficult, and while making it to Alberton may be hard sometimes, driving to Summerside in storm conditions may be impossible. Missed treatments can be dangerous and trying to reschedule them if they just cannot make it will take some juggling.
It is inhumane to expect people who might be unable to work due to their illness to spend the kind of money that will be required to pay for transportation to Summerside.
Where will some of them find people who can give up the better part of three days each week for many years so they can receive this life-saving treatment?
Expecting patients to bear the cost of travel, or the stress of uprooting themselves and their families to move to Summerside, is not the mark of a caring, compassionate government concerned for the well-being of the most vulnerable in our society.
This change is not a temporary situation. This will be the new reality for kidney patients in West Prince for the rest of their lives. In an effort to cut transportation costs, or if they are unable to find someone to drive them, some patients may choose to reduce the frequency of treatments, or stop them altogether...either choice being life-threatening.
The government did not consult with dialysis patients before announcing the change. Do Ministers and the officials who made this decision realize the financial, physical and emotional impact it will have on these patients? If this decision is about quality of care and not about cost-cutting, did the Minister and his officials talk to those delivering and receiving the care?
Dr Kinsey Smith, who is a nephrologist on the Board of Health PEI is quoted in the media as saying he would hate to see PEI have second-rate care because of small units that can’t function effectively when there aren’t enough patients using them.
There are currently eight patients receiving dialysis and two nurses working at the Western Hospital unit. This is a ration of 1:4. With each treatment averaging four to six hours, the unit currently provides 120 hours of treatment each week. This unit has been described as being the most productive in the province. He should not assume rural hospitals can only offer second-rate services.
Health and Wellness Minister Doug Currie has said that “Innovation and efficiency must be considered in every decisions. In this case, he did not. Ministers need to make decisions which are in the best interest of the most vulnerable, those most affected. The best interests of the bottom line should not always be the deciding factor.
We call on the Minister to keep the Alberton and Souris hemodialysis units open.
President, Western Hospital Health Care Auxiliary