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Letter: Health Minister Dix not listening to residents need for dialysis unit at KLH

April 8th, 2024

To The Editor:

I am one of nine renal patients in the Nelson-Creston who must travel to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) because hemodialysis is not available at the Kootenay Lake Hospital (KLH).

When I began dialysis in 2019, I was advised by the social worker at the KBRH Kidney Care Clinic to move closer to Trail since my water supply and septic system in Ainsworth are not suitable for home peritoneal dialysis. But a move would have meant abandoning our home, family, and the critical support of the community we’ve enjoyed for 50 years.

My trips to KBRH and back to Ainsworth take 10 hours. Deprived of adequate public transportation, elderly renal patients must either drive or depend on a volunteer service, that we struggle to afford. My husband, who is a cardiac patient, drives me to Trail, often in hazardous conditions because it is not safe for a me to drive after treatment. In addition to time, rising expenses for vehicle maintenance, fuel, meals, and accommodation are substantial — for which we receive little compensation when we submit these items on our tax forms.

Resolutions passed by the Village of Kaslo, Nelson City Council, and West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District Board all recommend hemodialysis be established in Nelson. But instead, IHA and BC Renal proposed a traveling Kidney Care Clinic, which is not what we want. As well, friends and neighbours were urged to volunteer to administer peritoneal dialysis in the home.

Currently, homecare workers and LPNs are not licensed to perform dialysis. Trained laypeople, who chose to administer dialysis to friends and neighbours, place themselves in serious legal peril because they cannot purchase personal liability insurance for their humanitarian activities.

It appears this province is unable to devise an effective recruitment strategy to attract health care workers to Nelson. This, despite the fact that health care providers want to leave the Vancouver area due to the high cost of living.

In 2019, former MLA Mungall, wrote to Health Minister Dix requesting a hemodialysis unit for KLH because our riding had reached the requisite number of patients stipulated in the BC Renal guidelines. Minister Dix never responded to our MLA’s request. In desperation, an online petition in favour of a Nelson dialysis unit was created in 2022 and then presented in the BC legislature with over 2,000 signatures. This second request was dismissed because it failed to meet acceptable petition protocols.

Early this year, BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie reported seniors living in rural areas of this province receive the worst health care. With the coming election in October, it’s time for the BCNDP majority government to act responsibly by building us a hemodialysis unit in Nelson, as well as devising an effective strategy to recruit the staff to operate it.

Creston, Grand Forks, Sparwood, and Cranbrook health facilities have community dialysis units. Three of these municipalities host smaller populations than Nelson. The following organizations unanimously support the call to build and staff a community dialysis unit at the Kootenay Lake Hospital.

  • Village of Kaslo
  • City of Nelson
  • West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District Board
  • BC Rural Health Network
  • Community First Health Cooperative
  • IODE Nelson
  • Knights of Columbus, Nelson Council 1560
  • Lions Club of Nelson
  • Nelson Catholic Women’s League
  • Nelson Italian-Canadian Society
  • Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Committee
  • Rotary Club of Nelson Daybreak
  • The Nelson Rotary Club

We, who have voted NPD for almost two decades, demand this government and its obdurate bureaucracies heed our call!

Christine Freyta, Ainsworth Hot Springs, BC 

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