For 11 years Paul Norvila and his wife June have made regular trips to the Red Deer Hospital from Bentley so Paul could have lifesaving dialysis treatments.
Last Friday, in the space of an unexpected phone call, that all changed.
“We got a call Friday morning from the Northern Alberta Renal Program (NARP) to go to Wetaskiwin, Saturday. We pleaded for at least one last dialysis run in Red Deer to at least say goodbye to friends and staff and were finally granted that,” said June Norvila.
However, Tuesday, Paul’s birthday, the couple traveled to Wetaskiwin for the lifesaving treatment.
“He spent his birthday in a strange place with unfamiliar people and staff, far from home, hooked to a machine for four hours instead of with familiar faces sharing in the birthday cupcakes I had planned to take to Red Deer dialysis to share in a happier time and have congrats and hugs and smiles all over,” said June, later.
The Norvilas are understandably upset about the new travel arrangements which almost triples the distance and doubles the time on the road to an hour and a half one way (provided road conditions are good).
“We had been offered Rocky, which is about five miles closer than Wetaskiwin, but as the driver I am more familiar with the roads to Wetaskiwin and we have been warned about bad roads in winter around Rocky. Our other option was not to go at all.”
Norvila notes the change in location to receive dialysis means limiting access to her husband’s nephrologist, dietician and social worker as well as displacing familiar staff and friends.
“Family and friends can no longer pop in to visit him so he can keep in touch with what is happening. Our own family doctor from Sylvan Lake may not even have hospital privileges there or our neurologist either.
In an earlier statement, Deb Gordon, vice president and chief health operations officer for Northern Alberta said when dialysis is at capacity in Red Deer patients may be asked to travel to access the care they need.
“If patients do need to travel for dialysis service, we do all we can to limit the distance they have to travel.
Meanwhile The Rimbey and District Dialysis Support Group continues to lobby to bring a satellite dialysis unit to Rimbey.
However, Gordon said dialysis is not a treatment that is easily or quickly expanded to other communities.