No dialysis unit for Brooks after AHS pulls funding
When the Brooks and District Health Foundation first started reaching out to the community a few years ago to raise money for a dialysis unit for the Brooks Health Centre, the feeling the need for the unit was definitely there.
At the time, 14 patients were forced to travel from Brooks to other medical facilities to receive their dialysis treatments.
It was in 2014 that the health foundation and the Southern Alberta Renal Program started discussing the possibility of bringing a dialysis unit to Brooks, with Alberta Health Service showing their support for the initiative.
The foundation began fundraising in 2015, with the understanding that if they were to raise $1.5 million, the province would contribute the balance.
In 2016, Alberta Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman released a statement that included $2.1 million being earmarked for the dialysis program. A lot can change in a few short years. The health foundation has raised approximately $1 million for the unit, but the needs in the community have decreased, and up until October, the provincial government has been silent about any commitment.
It was not until AHS was forced to make a determination about what their commitment would be that the Brooks and District Health Foundation learned that AHS would not be supportive as the demand in the community was no longer there.
"There are not enough patients who would need the dialysis machine, so they (AHS) pulled their funding," said Diane Declercq, chair of the Brooks and District Health Foundation, adding that there needs to be a minimum of six patients who require dialysis for the province to show any kind of support.
"There was demand for it when we started, but that demand is not there now and that demand could change again," she said.
Declercq noted better technology is allowing some patients to be treated at home and understands the province's position.
"It makes sense if the demand is not there. I see where they are coming from. Why invest more than three million into a dialysis unit if it's not needed?"she said.
What she does not understand is why the province sat silent as the community raised money specifically to be used for a dialysis unit if it had already decided that the Alberta government would not be contributing one cent.
"The bottom line is there has been just over $1 million raised and earmarked for that dialysis unit and our position is that money will stay in the community, to help people with dialysis. We just don't know what that will look like yet," said Declercq. "We have made it clear that nothing going forward will be done without a memorandum of understanding."
Currently, the Brooks and District Health Foundation are meeting with stakeholders and donors to find out how to best distribute the money that has been raised.
"We are looking and assessing what are the other greatest needs in the community. The money will be reinvested back into the community," she said, adding that having not enough patients requiring a dialysis unit is not a bad thing.
"If the community doesn't have that many people who need a dialysis machine, how is that a bad thing?" she said.