AHS favours dialysis bus, not fixed unit at hospital
Alberta Health Services has yet to commit to a permanent dialysis treatment centre inside the William J. Cadzow Health Centre, despite some very pointed words from local and provincial politicians.
Last week, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Shayne Saskiw said the dialysis situation in Lac La Biche—including a series of broken promises for a permanent solution—has been “badly bungled” by AHS, even going so far to say “heads should roll” at the provincial health authority.
When the Post asked for a response to Saskiw’s strong statement, representatives from AHS responded via email that “dialysis patients in Lac La Biche continue to receive the care they require”—without mentioning to get that care, the dozen or so local dialysis patients are forced to drive to St. Paul three times a week for treatment. When pressed, the AHS spokesperson admitted that he meant that the renal patients from Lac La Biche were getting their treatment in St. Paul, a 90-minute drive.
And when asked if AHS is looking at the possibility of installing a permanent dialysis centre in the William J. Cadzow Health Centre—seen as the preferred outcome by local patients because of its permanent nature—the health agency steered their response towards the promised full-time dialysis bus.
“The delivery of dialysis services covers a spectrum of care that changes over time,” said AHS’ Medical Director for northern Alberta, Dr. Kevin Worry. “At present, this solution [parking the bus at the facility] provides in a timely manner significantly expanded dialysis services in Lac La Biche. This ensures that more dialysis patients are treated closer to home, and will be on an ongoing basis. This will meet the current dialysis needs of the Lac La Biche community. AHS is committed to meeting the medical needs of our communities in a timely manner.”
That manner may not be timely enough for some residents. Dr. Worry told the Post last month the full-time bus—retrofitted with an extra station and capable of doing two treatment runs daily—would be parked in Lac La Biche starting July 5. However, local dialysis patients learned shortly after that the bus would be delayed until the end of summer.
This sparked further frustrations, both for patients and for politicians, who’ve all been struggling for years for a consistent solution to this serious problem. But Dr. Worry said AHS has been speaking with local dialysis patients and says the health authority is doing what they can to accommodate them in what has been, in the words of MLA Saskiw: “The worst management, of anything, I’ve ever seen.”
“While this delay is disappointing and frustrating for all involved, AHS’ greatest ongoing concern is for the well-being of the patients affected,” Dr. Worry said via email. “Our AHS leadership team is connecting with our Lac La Biche dialysis patients to apologize for the delay, to thank them for their patience, and to ask if there is anything else we can to do to support them during this transition time. We all look forward to having the expanded dialysis services on an ongoing basis in Lac La Biche, so these patients will receive quality care close to home.”
Dr. Worry said the retrofitted dialysis bus will be parked at the William J. Cadzow Health Centre full time by late August.
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