August 19, 2019 6:33 pm
Updated: August 19, 2019 8:07 pm

‘It’s a historical day’: Sask. government funding gives epilepsy patients hope

WATCH: With more than 10,000 people living with epilepsy and the only province without a dedicated unit, the government is now stepping up to help fund a new four-bed telemetry unit. Katelyn Wilson explains.

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On Monday, the Saskatchewan government announced funding for a dedicated epilepsy unit at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital (RUH).

With more than 10,000 people living with epilepsy and the only province without a dedicated unit, the government is now pledging $1.3 million in operational costs beginning in 2020-21.

“Our government is committed to improving access to high-quality health care services for people with epilepsy,” said Jim Reiter, Saskatchewan’s health minister.

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The Royal University Hospital Foundation (RUFH) has also begun fundraising for the new four-bed telemetry unit.

The unit will allow the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to provide improved access to in-depth diagnostic and treatment services.

READ MORE: No update from Sask. gov’t on funding for a dedicated epilepsy unit

“Having additional telemetry beds will improve the ability to assess and determine if patients are candidates for surgery.  For people living with epilepsy, this is life-changing,” said Arla Gustafson, RUHF CEO.

The telemetry unit will include monitoring equipment and cameras which allows doctors to conduct readings and assessments at the patient’s bedside.

Telemetry is a tool that helps determine whether or not a patient needs to have surgery to help alleviate seizures.

“It’s a historical day for patients with epilepsy in the province,” said Dr. Jose Tellez, who’s been lobbying for the unit for a decade. “Patients are going to be investigated properly, on time and we are not going to delay any more epilepsy surgeries.”

“It has a lot of benefits from patient care, retention and hiring more people. These units are very productive and we can do more research for the university.”

READ MORE: ‘It just feels like they’re not listening’: Sask. only province without dedicated seizure unit

Becky Findlay, a mother of two, was diagnosed with epilepsy more than five years ago and was only able to receive life-changing surgery in April due to a lengthy wait list.

Before the surgery, medication did nothing to control the frequent seizures and with every one, she lost a piece of her memory.

“My son is turning 6 next month and my daughter is 2 I don’t remember much of their early years,” Findlay said.

“Now seizure-free, I was able to experience something when I went swimming. For once I was able to hold my daughter and there was no worry.”

With 150 others in the province waiting for similar treatment, Findlay said she knows how important this news is.

READ MORE: Inside Epilepsy: Patients turn to brain surgery for treatment

RUFH is planning to raise $1.2 million to cover the initial costs.

“With the generous help of the RUH Foundation, this dedicated, specialized unit will make a tremendous difference to patients who need this service,” Reiter said.

The Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital is also receiving two beds equipped for pediatric epilepsy telemetry services in the fall.

Of the 10,500 people in Saskatchewan living with epilepsy, 700 are children.

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