Years of advocating leads to permanent dialysis unit in Lac La Biche

Lac La Biche gets permanent new dialysis unit
WATCH ABOVE: After years of fighting for it, Lac La Biche patients have a new, permanent dialysis facility. Fletcher Kent reports.

After years of waiting and advocating, Lac La Biche-area residents welcomed a permanent dialysis unit at the William J. Cadzow on Thursday.

Patients have been pushing for a dialysis unit for years. Since 2011, the former Wildrose and New Democrat parties also pushed the then-governing PCs to take action.

“This is what having public health-care system is all about,” Lac La Biche mayor Omer Moghrabi said.

“I’m proud to see our community’s advocacy had led to a permanent dialysis unit,” Moghrabi said. “[It] means our citizens and neighbours have easy access to life-saving treatment in dignified conditions.”

READ MORE: Lac La Biche dialysis patients demanding better health care 

Since 2010, Lac La Biche-area residents have received their dialysis treatment on a bus parked outside the hospital. It was initially intended as a permanent solution, but patients said it was a band-aid fix that ran its course.

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The retrofitted bus could only treat five patients. Others in Lac La Biche were forced to travel hours for dialysis in other cities because the local mobile unit didn’t have enough staff trained to assist them.

READ MORE: Lac La Biche to receive permanent dialysis unit 

In March 2016, the province announced a six-station unit was being planned. The government allocated $3 million for the dialysis unit, which was expected to begin accepting patients in early 2018.

The permanent unit expands patient capacity from 10 to 12. The extra space also means family and friends can sit with patients during the procedure.

“When I met with residents, they expressed their frustration around care in their community,” Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said.

“We listened and we acted. Now the bus has been replaced with a permanent dialysis unit so Albertans can receive dignified health care in their community. Our government believes Albertans deserve a strong public health care system they can be proud of.”

READ MORE: Dialysis patients in Lac La Biche struggle to get life-saving treatment

The new unit will also serve patients from neighbouring communities, including Smoky Lake, Vilna, Wandering River and Athabasca.

“Dialysis is a vital treatment that AHS and Northern Alberta Renal Program are committed to providing,” AHS president Dr. Verna Yiu said.

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“This unit would not be possible without the tremendous efforts of our patients, staff, the Lac La Biche community and the province.”

The project was completed under budget at $2.4 million.

Now that the unit is operational, the dialysis bus will be decommissioned. It’s scheduled to be towed away on Feb. 27.