New dialysis unit at Halifax Infirmary can meet demand — for now

One of the dialysis stations inside the new dialysis unit in the Infirmary. Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – A new dialysis unit unveiled Wednesday at the Halifax Infirmary is enough to meet the current demand, but the head of the renal program at Capital Health said the number of Nova Scotians needing dialysis is growing every year.

The unit on the ground floor of the hospital includes 12 dialysis stations — four new stations and eight that have been moved from the Dickson Building at the V.G. site.

Dialysis patient Carol Betts, 67, of Lower Sackville said the new space greatly improves upon the old one.

“It’s like night and day,” she said. She is in her third year of dialysis and has to undergo the procedure three times a week.

“The old facilities are nice but they’re crowded. I was in a little room with no windows and no TVs.

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“I don’t dread coming in [now]. It’s a lot nicer when you have a nice, bright unit to come to and all the facilities and everything.”

Dr. Ken West, the head of nephrology and the head of the renal program at Capital Health, called the new unit open and spacious.

Julia Wong/Global News

“The thing to recognize is the incredible burden kidney disease places on patients and their families,” he said.

“It’s an exhausting treatment. They come three times a week for at least four hours and a lot have to travel a long way to get dialysis. It’s important when they do get to the dialysis unit that it’s really a supportive and positive environment.”

West acknowledged that the demand for dialysis will grow in the coming years, but he does not expect to expand the infirmary’s dialysis unit due to space limitations.

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“Eventually there’s going to be further expansion somewhere around the Halifax Infirmary site, maybe not right in this building. It might be adjacent to it. I think that’s a 10-year plan the hospital is doing,” he said.

“We might add space outside of metro [Halifax]…like Dartmouth and Cobequid.”

Health Minister Leo Glavine was also on hand for the unveiling. He said the new unit will ease some of the pressure on the unit in the Dickson Building and potentially allow for some upgrades there, though he cautioned there are no immediate plans.

He said the Health Department is looking at starting a dialysis unit at Valley Regional Hospital.

“The program is again looking at how can we best geographically position dialysis units so that patients don’t have to travel too far when you consider this is at least three times a week,” he said.

The new unit officially opens March 30.

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