‘It’s a big burden’: Woman forced to travel hours for dialysis calls on province to open unit in southeast B.C.

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B.C. woman has to travel hours, one way, for health treatment – Apr 25, 2019

Sixty-six-year-old Lyla Nickel of Golden, B.C. says she is forced to travel ten hours round trip once a week for dialysis treatment.

Lyla was diagnosed two years ago with kidney failure. She relies on a dialysis machine to clean her blood.

But the life-saving treatment isn’t available in her small Kootenay town in southeast B.C.

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Lyla, who is partially blind and relies on her husband John to get to appointments, is forced to travel to Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook and Penticton for treatment.

Lyla, who is partially blind, relies on her husband John to drive her to dialysis treatment in the Okanagan. Shelby Thom\Global News

“It’s a big burden on our family,” she told Global News while in Penticton for dialysis at Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH).

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The retirees say they can’t afford to move to the Okanagan and the cost of transportation and accommodation is crippling their family financially.

“You get no assistance of any kind and when you’re a pensioner you’ve only got ‘X’ amount of dollars coming in,” John added.

The couple is writing a letter to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to share their plight and advocate for a dialysis unit in the southeast B.C. region.

“What I’d like to see in this country is a unit put into my own little town because we are too far away from anything else,” she said while writing the letter.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada says home dialysis is available to some patients in remote areas and short-term financial assistance can be provided.

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“We can often help them with travel by giving them Petro Canada gas cards and sometimes we put them up in accommodation but we can’t cover long-term expenses for dialysis because it’s usually three times a week for a long time,” said Heather Johnson, the director of programs with the BC Branch of the foundation.

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But to Lyla and her family, that isn’t good enough.

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) says it is not feasible to operate a dialysis unit it every community.

“Even stable patients who receive dialysis care in a community-based dialysis unit require ongoing physician, nursing, nutritional, pharmacy, technician, and social support services, in addition to a suitable facility,” says Paula Hann, the regional director of renal services for IHA.

“Nursing support is a particular challenge in small communities,” she said in an email.

Hann adds that a minimum of six to eight hemodialysis patients are required to sustain a unit and there are only one or two patients in Golden.

“Our renal team discusses the best possible options with each patient for their ongoing care needs and would be happy to speak to Ms. Nickel to address her current concerns and find the most appropriate and convenient dialysis option,” Hann said.

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