Despite being stonewalled over and over again, the crusade to bring renal dialysis treatments to Rimbey carries on, thanks to the efforts of a core group of local individuals.
Among them is local activist Doreen Glanfield who decided to step up to the plate and fight for the implementation of the service, but she admits it could be a long and difficult struggle.
“I decided to work with them and see what we can do about getting renal dialysis in Rimbey. It doesn’t look too hopeful at times though,” Glanfield said. “I sort of helped them get organized and form a support group. I also said I’d do the public relations, paper work and letter writing for a while too.”
After writing a letter to the Northern Alberta Renal Program (NARP) based in Edmonton, she said she was a bit disappointed with their reply.
Citing three key points, the NARP reiterated earlier statements made from themselves and others including the Rimbey hospital that establishing renal dialysis services locally simply cannot be justified.
“Due to the implementation of preventative strategies, we have been able to reduce the rate of increase in new dialysis patients from 10 per cent per year to one to three per cent per year. This means many less new dialysis units will be needed in northern Alberta,” the reply read in its first point.
“The three units that are currently serving your area (Rocky Mountain House, Red Deer and Wetaskiwin) have a capacity to accommodate up to 198 patients, and there are only 116 patients currently receiving chronic dialysis treatment in those three facilities,” the letter continued.
“The distance to Red Deer from Rimbey is well below our criteria to consider establishing new dialysis facilities, especially when we have many vacancies in our existing units,” the letter said in summarizing the third point.
In their reply however, the NARP did give a bit of hope to dialysis patients with the possibility of providing the vital service within the patient’s dwellings.
“The second major effort is to provide treatment in patient’s homes, including hemodialysis,” the letter stated. “Over the next five years, we want to expand these services so that patients can do their dialysis at home to alleviate the requirement for traveling while still providing the best quality of care and quality of life.”
But according to Glanfield, that factor isn’t going over too well with local patients.
“They don’t want home dialysis necessarily, they want it here in the community,” she said. “There’s a lot of talk about home dialysis in the letter and I think perhaps in the near future there should be some kind of meeting or forum in Rimbey with some of our local politicians.”
Glanfield said the patients she’s talked to would prefer a central location – either at the local hospital or elsewhere, in case of an emergency that could require treatment above and beyond the dialysis itself, and also clarified a key point to set the record straight.
“I can see how and why these patients and their families are thinking like that, but renal dialysis has nothing to do with the David Thompson Health Region or the hospitals,” she said. “It’s run completely separate out of Edmonton, out of Capital Health and/or the Kidney Foundation. It’s a program that has nothing to do with our hospital or our other needs here.”
Having only stepped into the position of representing the patients only recently, Glanfield said she isn’t quite sure what the problem is with home-dialysis treatments, but expressed some of the patients are concerned.
“I’m not sure that there is a problem because I’m not knowledgeable enough yet myself about this kind of thing,” she said. “But some of the dialysis patients around here say it’s not for everybody and it can be harmful if it’s not taken care of properly.”
As for a permanent – or even temporary solution, Glanfield suggested that due to the disparity between available beds and the number of patients in need of treatment, perhaps spreading the beds out might help.
“I guess one way I was looking at it, in this letter they say there are about 200 beds available in this area, including Drayton, Wetaskewin, Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House, but there are only 100 patients using them,” she said. “It kind of popped into my head why those beds couldn’t be spread around a little thinner.”
Having said that, she also acknowledged that the cost of supplying the machines, nurses and support staff could be very prohibitive.
“I’m afraid it’s a ways away. In the letter they see a good solution in home dialysis or maybe a unit dialysis that goes from town to town,” she said. “Ideally it would be wonderful it everybody lived within 20 miles of a treatment centre, but that just isn’t the way it is.”