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Rimbey group goes to bat for rural dialysis patients

A Rimbey group will make its case at a provincial inquiry later this month on the disparities between urban and rural patients seeking renal dialysis.

The Renal Dialysis Rimbey Support Group will present a formal submission to the Alberta Public Inquiry into Preferential Access, which is looking into health services queue jumping, in Calgary on Feb. 27.

According to a report prepared by the group, rural residents are risking their lives travelling to Red Deer to receive medically necessary dialysis services.

“Dialysis patients from the Rimbey area must travel three or more times a week on dangerous roads to receive medically necessary treatment,” said spokeswoman Irene Lovell.

The Rimbey group says that research and government reports on rural health care over the past two decades have emphasized a growing gap between Canadian rural and urban communities when accessing health-care services.

In addition to having poorer status and facing increased health risks, rural Canadians are confronted with a health-care system that is not designed to serve their needs.

In a nutshell, urban Canadians receive preferential access to health care, says the Rimbey group.

“This particular area of rural Alberta has been overlooked,” said Lovell.

She said they’re not opposed to the kind of services provided to patients in urban areas.

“But there is a big need for equal services to the rural dialysis patients,” she said.

June Norvila has taken her husband Paul to Red Deer for dialysis an average of three times a week for the past 10 years.

She said that in the last five years, one patient from the area died because of a car crash while returning from dialysis and another patient was seriously injured while trying to get home. Other people have had near misses.

Rimbey area residents’ costs are five times as much to access the same dialysis services as residents living in Red Deer. While Alberta Health Services has refused to bring dialysis into the community, Rimbey has a relatively new hospital that could accommodate a dialysis unit, and medical and nursing staff currently providing dialysis services in Red Deer have indicated they would support a dialysis unit in Rimbey.

Lovell said that sometimes dialysis services are set up in places like shopping centres in urban areas, plus buses are used to come to people in rural areas.

“So they have a number of ways for delivering services, but the best way for this area would be at the Rimbey Hospital,” said Lovell.



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