One or two extra dialysis stations at a minimum will be added to the dialysis unit at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre over the coming weeks, according to a top official with Alberta Health Services.
Three Red Deer dialysis patients had been left with little choice except to travel to outlying units in Rocky Mountain House and Wetaskiwin over the past month as the Red Deer unit has been operating over capacity for some time.
AHS announced late last week that no one would have to continue to travel for treatment.
The demand for dialysis in the unit ebbs and flows, said Kerry Bales, chief zone officer for the Cental Zone with AHS, and the demand is slightly down again at the moment.
“Those three people were asked to move because we didn’t have the capacity at the time. … It was a matter of timing; we had been working to get those pieces in place before we exceeded capacity. … It’s a challenge … but it was already underway to have those people come back to Red Deer before the news release came out,” Bales said.
He couldn’t comment on how many more chairs exactly would be added to increase the capacity but said it would be “one or two minimally.”
He said they are confident that those pieces will be in place to handle the demand when it spikes again in the short term.
Bales said there will not be a “significant cost” to the immediate plans for added capacity, noting however there will have to be some work done to make sure the chairs and water system are accommodated but “we’re not talking about major renovations to do this.”
Dialysis removes waste from the blood of patients who have lost kidney function, by passing it through a machine as the patient sits in a chair. It takes four hours and is typically required three times a week.
There are 20 chairs or stations in Red Deer’s unit, allowing 120 people to dialyze per week.
AHS is working on immediate, short-term and long-term planning for the dialysis unit in Red Deer, Bales said.
“In the immediate, we’re putting in some capacity so if the demand exceeds what the current unit is able to do, we’ll have the option and capacity to provide some renal dialysis somewhere in the hospital on inpatient units.”
Bales said he does not anticipate any patients having to travel outside of the city for the treatment again.
Staffing will be impacted, Bales said, as more nursing hours will likely have to be provided.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean adding staff; it could mean existing staff working more hours or sharing staff among other programs,” he said.
They are also looking at solutions connected to changes in the scheduling for dialysis patients, extending the hours of the unit and possibly doing more intensive renovations to expand the space.
Bales said he hopes to have an answer as to what the longer term decision is before the beginning of summer.