Souris hospital holds open house for renovated dialysis unit.
Trying to fight his way through snow and ice to get to Charlottetown last winter drained dialysis patient Tom Eldershaw.
“It’s a long haul and even worse when you have to battle the weather,” he said. “It pretty well zaps your entire energy.”
It’s a two hour drive there and back from the eastern port town to the capital city – even longer in winter driving conditions.
Eldershaw had to make the drive three times a week just to stay alive. Add on the three hour dialysis treatment once you get to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown and that pretty well eats up the day.
So Eldershaw and fellow kidney patient Jim Campbell were beaming Thursday after Health Minister Doug Currie held an open house for the newly expanded dialysis unit at the Souris hospital.
The minister unveiled the $300,000 renovation which provides a modern and spacious treatment area and a major upgrade to the water filtration system. “We are now providing a higher standard of care in Souris which is very important to the patients who require this life sustaining treatment,” he said.
Three years ago, Currie was the helm when Health P.E.I. recommended closing the unit entirely and relocating patients to Charlottetown for treatment.
That stirred up a hornet’s nest.
The threat of rural decay and lost services created such a backlash in eastern P.E.I. that hundreds of residents filled public meetings and led protests at the P.E.I. legislature.
“There was a direction from Health P.E.I. about capacity and there were lots of competing demands on the health system at that time,’’ Currie said during an interview. “It wasn’t a case of government changing its’ mind….the reality is the intense growth and demand for dialysis needs which puts pressure on the health system and that’s why we’ve expanded here.”
The expansion provides more individual space and privacy for patients and now allows up to 12 patients per week to receive treatment rather than 10.
One of the most vocal patients against any reduction of services in Souris was Nathan Bushey, who ran for the NDP in the last election. He helped submit a brief to government in May 2012 advising of the health ramifications to dialysis patients having to travel more than 15 minutes for treatment.
“I think public pressure did it and the democratic process worked,’’ he said during the open house. “The government overturned their original decision to close because of the public outcry.”
“We’ve already seen the positive impact this expansion has had on the quality of dialysis care we provide and on the work-life of our staff,’’ said Cheryl Banks, director of provincial renal program.
Having their cake and eating it too. That’s what dialysis patients Tom Eldershaw, left and Jim Campbell are doing as they celebrate the open house to unveil the $300,000 expansion to the Souris dialysis unit that only two years ago was on the government chopping block.