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Nova Scotia announces Dartmouth dialysis expansion amid concerns over patient displacement

A multi-million dollar expansion of the Dartmouth General dialysis unit will result in 36 additional patients being able to receive treatment at the site. .
A multi-million dollar expansion of the Dartmouth General dialysis unit will result in 36 additional patients being able to receive treatment at the site. . Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Over the next 12 months, the renal dialysis unit at the Dartmouth General Hospital will be closed while an expansion to the space is built —  increasing the number of patients the unit is able to treat.

The end result will see an additional 36 patients able to receive dialysis treatment at the Dartmouth General Hospital.

“We’re announcing almost $7.5 million dollars for the expansion of the dialysis unit here at Dartmouth General Hospital. We’re going to be adding six new seats, or chairs, for treatment here,” said Randy Delorey, the provincial health minister.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia to spend $7.5 million to expand dialysis unit at Dartmouth General

Delorey said the work is well underway and the entire project is expected to be completed in fall of 2021.

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A 12-month construction project is underway to expand the renal dialysis unit at the Dartmouth General Hospital.
A 12-month construction project is underway to expand the renal dialysis unit at the Dartmouth General Hospital. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax.

As first reported by Global News this August, the expansion has raised concerns for some of the 55 patients who are being displaced from the Dartmouth General due to the construction.

This summer, patients contacted Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender to voice their concerns regarding time, travel and costs involved in moving their dialysis treatments to Halifax.

Patients questioned why there wasn’t an interim solution presented that would allow them to stay in Dartmouth while they receive weekly dialysis treatment.

Each treatment can take upwards of three-hours and patients often receive treatment three to four times a week.

“I still haven’t heard really cogent reasoning about why these patients can’t continue to receive dialysis in Dartmouth during this renovation. It’s certainly a hardship for many, many of them – who have been in my office, who have been talking to me about getting to Halifax, their caregivers getting to Halifax,” Chender said.

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When it comes to space in Dartmouth, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) says there wasn’t an option for relocating dialysis patients to another part of the Dartmouth General.

“We even looked at putting a second-storey on this building, it wasn’t built for that. So, that would require all new infrastructure to support a second-storey,” said David Landry, the senior director of the NSHA renal program.

NSHA says it can’t compensate Dartmouth dialysis patients for bridge tolls
NSHA says it can’t compensate Dartmouth dialysis patients for bridge tolls

Landy says a provincial steering committee also considered an offsite location but that the costs were too significant.

“If we were to move to another location here in Dartmouth, we would have basically been creating a brand new dialysis unit and then once we were completed we would have had to take it apart, that all costs big money,” Landry said.

While Chender says the expansion is welcome news, she feels the burden that will be created for patients by the year-long construction project wasn’t adequately addressed in the decision making process.

“We know that many of the patients that the Dartmouth General sees have limited means. So, at least for some of those patients the cost is a hardship – they don’t have a vehicle.” Chender said.

The health authority says there are already supports in place at the Victoria General and Halifax Infirmary to deliver the standard of care the dialysis patients have been receiving in Dartmouth.

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“To provide the quality of care that we do, from a renal perspective, we believed that we could do that by the move that we made with the patients from Dartmouth to Halifax,” Landry said.

READ MORE: ‘It’s just added stress’: Dartmouth dialysis patients frustrated by imminent transfer to Halifax

The Dartmouth General Hospital upgrades are part of the $2-billion QEII New Generation redevelopment, which aims to improve health care services in Metro Halifax long term.

The expansion and renovations are expected to add nearly 50 beds to the hospital, double its number of operating rooms and allow doctors to perform an extra 3,500 surgeries per year.

With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey