Winter storm wallops Nova Scotia
First responders kept busy as wet, slippery road conditions results in multiple accidents
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.”