Win­ter storm wal­lops Nova Sco­tia

First re­spon­ders kept busy as wet, slip­pery road con­di­tions re­sults in mul­ti­ple ac­ci­dents

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - Ca­role.mor­ris-un­der­ BY CA­ROLE MOR­RIS-UN­DER­HILL WWW.HANTSJOURNAL.CA

A push for lo­cal dial­y­sis

In 2011, a fundrais­ing ini­tia­tive was launched to help off­set the cap­i­tal costs as­so­ci­ated with start­ing a satel­lite dial­y­sis unit in Wind­sor. The hope at the time was that the pro­vin­cial govern­ment would see the com­mu­nity rally be­hind the cause and would con­sider Wind­sor as a pos­si­ble site for a satel­lite dial­y­sis unit.

The pro­vin­cial govern­ment ini­tially came out against the idea but in 2013, com­mit­ted to re­view­ing the case put for­ward to have a dial­y­sis unit in Wind­sor.

Andy Kirk, the chair­per­son of the Hants Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion, said the foun­da­tion fully sup­ported the com­mu­nity’s ef­forts and was in­volved with dis­cus­sions with the pro­vin­cial govern­ment.

“The prov­ince met with the foun­da­tion and lo­cal staff and, in the sim­plest terms, laid out the chal­lenges that would be in­volved in set­ting up a dial­y­sis unit here at the Hants Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal,” said Kirk.

He said the foun­da­tion had a “dif­fer­ence of opin­ion” when it came to some of the statis­tics used to jus­tify the prov­ince’s de­ci­sion.

The Hants Satel­lite Dial­y­sis Review, pre­pared by the Nova Sco­tia Re­nal Pro­gram and pub­lished in 2014, de­ter­mined that es­tab­lish­ing a unit in Wind­sor was not rec­om­mended as the “cur­rent de­mand data and fu­ture pro­jec­tions for Hants County do not sup­port a satel­lite dial­y­sis unit in Wind­sor. In ad­di­tion, when com­pared to the pro­vin­cial dial­y­sis ser­vice de­liv­ery sys­tem fu­ture plans, hav­ing a satel­lite in Wind­sor would not pro­vide ben­e­fit to the sys­tem as a whole or align with pro­vin­cial plan­ning prin­ci­ples and pri­or­i­ties.”

At the time of the review, the re­port in­di­cated Hants County had 24 pa­tients on dial­y­sis — the foun­da­tion, the lo­cal MLA and res­i­dents all in­di­cated the number was closer to 40 — and there were 48 peo­ple from Hants County (25 in Wind­sor) be­ing fol­lowed with sig­nif­i­cant chronic kid­ney dis­ease.

“Pre­dic­tions in­di­cate that ap­prox­i­mately six of the 25 (from Wind­sor) will re­quire hemodial­y­sis in the next three to five years,” the re­port read.

“Some will be lost due to trans­plant and death in the next three to five years, so in­cre­men­tal growth will likely only be one to two pa­tients for a to­tal of ap­prox­i­mately 17 pa­tients on hemodial­y­sis from the Wind­sor area in the next three to five years.”

While the re­port ruled against set­ting up a satel­lite dial­y­sis unit, it did in­di­cate that the govern­ment should ex­plore the fea­si­bil­ity of im­ple­ment­ing a home hemodial­y­sis as­sis­tance pi­lot pro­ject in Hants County due to the large number of peo­ple ac­cess­ing peri­toneal dial­y­sis.

The re­port also found that the govern­ment should ex­plore the fea­si­bil­ity of im­ple­ment­ing sub­si­dized trans­porta­tion for Nova Sco­tia res­i­dents trav­el­ling for fa­cil­ity-based hemodial­y­sis ser­vices.

“In ad­di­tion to ben­e­fit­ting Hants County pa­tients, sub­si­dized trans­porta­tion would ben­e­fit all Nova Sco­tians at­tend­ing fa­cil­i­ty­based hemodial­y­sis and would al­le­vi­ate a long-stand­ing is­sue (fi­nan­cial bur­den) for many pa­tients trav­el­ling to hemodial­y­sis ser­vices,” the re­port said.

The re­port noted that “sto­ries of fi­nan­cial ruin due to travel ex­penses are com­mon among dial­y­sis pa­tients.”

The re­port also noted that the Pro­vin­cial Dial­y­sis Ser­vices Review Com­mit­tee should review the pro­vin­cial plan an­nu­ally “to en­sure the ev­i­dence still sup­ports the plan and to de­ter­mine whether changes are re­quired.”

Kirk said $45,000 was raised dur­ing Wind­sor’s bid to have a small satel­lite dial­y­sis unit set up at the lo­cal hos­pi­tal.

“We ac­tu­ally just rein­vested it in the last few months to get a bet­ter rate of re­turn,” said Kirk, not­ing that while the foun­da­tion is fo­cus­ing its fundrais­ing ef­forts on ob­tain­ing other items for the hos­pi­tal right now, the foun­da­tion would still be sup­port­ive of a fu­ture satel­lite dial­y­sis ex­pan­sion that would in­clude Wind­sor.

“Our goal is to make the hos­pi­tal the best that it can be for pa­tients, vis­i­tors and for staff.”

Other op­tions on the ta­ble

Hants West MLA Chuck Porter served as a para­medic for 17 years be­fore be­com­ing a politi­cian. He has long lob­bied to have bet­ter treat­ment op­tions avail­able to ru­ral res­i­dents and said he re­mains pas­sion­ate about the cause.

“I’m try­ing to think of how many health min­is­ters I’ve asked this ques­tion to and lob­bied for dial­y­sis in this area. All of them, I would tell you. How­ever many there have been, I’ve lob­bied all of them,” said Porter.

The one thing he heard over and over again as a para­medic was that the stress wasn’t from the treat­ment, but from the trav­el­ling.

“You’re al­ways re­ly­ing on spouses or fam­ily or friends to take you. It’s a three-day-a-week sit­u­a­tion. Those days don’t wait for weather. These aren’t op­tions. Hence the rea­son I was al­ways so pas­sion­ate about try­ing to bring it as lo­cal as I can,” he said.

Porter said it’s good news that treat­ment will soon be avail­able in Kentville, but would like to find a way to help al­le­vi­ate the stress and bur­den cur­rently fac­ing pa­tients need­ing to travel.

He has a number of sug­ges­tions he’d like to see con­sid­ered, in­clud­ing set­ting up a cou­ple dial­y­sis beds at the Hants Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal so that lo­cals could use them once or twice a week in or­der to re­duce the number of trips to Hal­i­fax or Kentville. An­other op­tion could be a govern­ment in­vest­ment in a trans­porta­tion model that would shut­tle groups of dial­y­sis pa­tients to and from their treat­ments.

Trav­el­ling, he said, has caused pa­tients to leave Hants County in or­der to be closer to treat­ment.

“It’s not be­cause it’s just phys­i­cal. The fi­nan­cial cost, the bur­den, had played such an im­pact that they de­cided mov­ing was the only al­ter­na­tive. That’s a shame. They’re leav­ing our com­mu­nity, hav­ing to move closer to the city or the Val­ley — wher­ever they’re get­ting their treat­ment,” he said.

“The sad­der side of that, and that’s ex­actly what it is, is that some peo­ple have just given up and are no longer with us. They just couldn’t do it any­more. It took a lot on them phys­i­cally... It’s hard. Your life changes.”

Carla Adams, the se­nior ad­vi­sor of me­dia re­la­tions with the Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity, said in an email that there are no plans to have a satel­lite dial­y­sis unit cre­ated in Wind­sor.

“The pro­vin­cial re­nal pro­gram has been do­ing a review of ser­vices around the prov­ince to iden­tify any ad­di­tional dial­y­sis ser­vices re­quired and plan for ser­vice needs over the next five to 10 years,” Adams wrote.

“The 2013 review did not sup­port the cre­ation of a dial­y­sis unit in Wind­sor at that time, but the cur­rent pro­vin­cial plan­ning will take into ac­count chang­ing needs and pop­u­la­tions. A new dial­y­sis unit be­ing con­structed at Val­ley Re­gional Hos­pi­tal in Kentville will also en­hance ser­vices in the Val­ley area.”

Adams said the number of Hants County pa­tients re­quir­ing dial­y­sis is not some­thing they can pro­vide as that fig­ure fluc­tu­ates.

“Be­cause this is an ever-chang­ing and dynamic ser­vice, pro­vid­ing pa­tient num­bers in any spe­cific lo­ca­tion does not paint a com­plete pic­ture of an over­all pro­vin­cial need for dial­y­sis, nor does it in­clude pre­dial­y­sis pa­tients. In ad­di­tion, the number fluc­tu­ates reg­u­larly from month to month,” she wrote.

Adams did in­di­cate that about 25 per cent of Hants County pa­tients are us­ing a home dial­y­sis ther­apy. The rest travel to Hal­i­fax or Ber­wick.

A win­ter storm hit Nova Sco­tia much harder than many weather fore­cast­ers pre­dicted March 9.

RCMP of­fi­cers, first re­spon­ders, tow truck driv­ers and snow­plow op­er­a­tors were all kept busy as the road con­di­tions con­tin­ued to de­te­ri­o­rate as the storm pro­gressed.

The Brook­lyn Fire Depart­ment was one of many vol­un­teer fire depart­ments that were kept on the go. The fire­fight­ers re­sponded to mul­ti­ple calls, start­ing at 3 a.m. with a med­i­cal and end­ing around mid­night with a mu­tual aid re­quest to Raw­don for pow­er­lines arc­ing in Green­field.

Andy McDade, Brook­lyn’s fire chief, said they re­sponded for 14 calls for as­sis­tance within a two-day pe­riod.

“It’s been pretty crazy for a cou­ple of days,” said McDade.

Many of those calls oc­curred March 9. From sup­per­time on­wards, mo­torists found them­selves slid­ing off the road and pow­er­lines be­gan arc­ing un­der the weight of the snow.

At 6:20 p.m., Brook­lyn and Hantsport fire­fight­ers re­sponded to a mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent on High­way 101 near Exit 7: Falmouth. While at­tend­ing that call, a trac­tor trailer went off the road in Sweets Corner, ty­ing up traf­fic along Went­worth Road for more than four hours.

“An 18-wheeler was on its side. That was a very daunt­ing task,” said McDade.

It took two tow trucks to get the ve­hi­cle out of the ditch.

“Where it went off, he came to rest up against a power pole and it was in a swampy area, so it was re­ally stuck in there,” said McDade, prais­ing the tow­ing com­pany for their ef­forts.

“It was very time con­sum­ing. We were there un­til close to 11:30 p.m.”

While that sit­u­a­tion was be­ing looked af­ter, other Brook­lyn fire­fight­ers were re­spond­ing to a host of other calls, in­clud­ing pow­er­lines arc­ing along the Wind­sor Back Road, Pel­low Road, in Cen­tre Burling­ton and Went­worth Creek.

Paul May­nard, a deputy chief in Hantsport, said they thank­fully didn’t re­ceive any calls for downed pow­er­lines or blown trans­form­ers, but they did spend about four hours around sup­per­time help­ing mo­torists who went off the road.

May­nard said they re­sponded to two calls along High­way 1 in Hants Bor­der and Lock­hartville and four calls on High­way 101 al­though only three mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents were lo­cated.

“No in­juries; most were mi­nor to mod­er­ate dam­age to the ve­hi­cles and just re­quired a tow truck more than any­thing,” said May­nard.

With an­other win­ter storm on the hori­zon, both May­nard and McDade said peo­ple need to re­con­sider if they have to be out on the roads.

“Be­cause the weather has been so good this win­ter, a lot of peo­ple for­get their win­ter driv­ing habits. (I’d like) to just re­mind peo­ple that we prob­a­bly still have a few more weeks of po­ten­tial weather like this,” said May­nard, adding he’s heard some driv­ers have al­ready switched to sum­mer tires.

“Peo­ple need to start look­ing at where they need to go and if it’s that im­por­tant,” said McDade. “You’ve got to start con­sid­er­ing your fam­ily and other peo­ple that are out there on the roads.”

Both long­time fire­fight­ers said some peo­ple are still not re­duc­ing their speeds when they pass by emer­gency scenes, and that’s wor­ri­some for the vol­un­teers.

“It’s still very prob­lem­atic for us out there,” said May­nard.

“It only takes a split sec­ond to lose con­trol on an icy road and slam into an ac­ci­dent scene where your first re­spon­ders are work­ing.” McDade shared a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment. “We’re all busy and we all have to be places but peo­ple have to slow down and drive for the road con­di­tions be­cause they cer­tainly haven’t been in the last lit­tle bit,” said McDade.

“Peo­ple are busy and al­ways in a hurry… It’s a grave safety hazard when they’re driv­ing on the roads like that.”

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