Residents of Northern Saskatchewan will see improved access to hemodialysis and kidney wellness services this year as planning is underway for a new six-station hemodialysis until in Meadow Lake.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) recently announced plans for construction of the new unit, which they say is set to begin in the summer and to be complete in the winter.
As much as a hemodialysis unit is needed in the northern area, it’s still undetermined what type of services the new unit will come with.
“The dialysis services for patients vary,” said Buckley Belanger, Ile-a-la-Crosse NDP MLA.
“There’s different types of dialysis and different stages of health care challenges to some of the people that require dialysis services. There’s care and prevention aspects as well, so we’re not sure exactly what type of services will come out of the Meadow Lake area, but any services to improve dialysis services we’re pleased with and are very supportive of it.”
Many dialysis patients in the north have to travel to Saskatoon for treatment. Even though Prince Albert has dialysis treatment, the Victoria Hospital is limited with its equipment and the number of patients that can be treated.
“We’re trying to provide some of those services in the Ile-a-la-Crosse facility,” Belanger says of dialysis treatment. “And are working our way through that and we have to basically wait and see what services are being provided for us to properly assess how that’ll improve patient care for people in our area. There are people that travel every week for service in the south and it gets very hard on their health and it gets very expensive, especially if you’re a pensioner.”
Not only is travelling very taxing on the body of someone who is in end-stage renal failure, but anyone who is a parent will have to leave their family while getting treated. For some that may be a whole day two or more days a week, for others that could be a week or more at a time.
Although it has been announced that the Prince Albert hospital will be expanding, there has been no word about more hemodialysis units or other renal treatments. And without word of when construction will begin on this expansion, Belanger has doubts as to whether it will be built anytime soon.
“The premier and the Sask. Party made commitments,” Belanger says of the recent hospital announcement. “This is a large addition to its current facility, that’s five years out. I know some of the current leaders won’t be around in five years. They’ll move on or lose an election. So, those kinds of empty promises are really dangerous for building expectations in some of these communities. That’s why it’s important to listen to some of the words of the local leadership and the council and the business community when they make a commitment like that to Prince Albert. Who’s going to make sure they follow up, who’s going to make sure that the process is continual, who’s going to make sure that some of these things are put in place for that facility…”
Premier Scott Moe has not announced when construction of the hospital expansion will be begin, so until the Meadow Lake facility is finished, the closest center for dialysis treatment to the north is the one unit in the current Prince Albert hospital.