More dialysis patients in the Red Deer area are receiving treatment at home.
A push to train more patients to perform their own dialysis started last summer after dialysis service at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre was stretched beyond its 120-patient capacity.
“If we look back about 18 months ago, we had 10 people who were on home therapy and as of today, we have 26,” said Kerry Bales, chief zone officer for AHS Central Zone, on Wednesday.
Two more dialysis chairs were also added at the hospital last summer, bringing the total to 122. That increased dialysis capacity to 132 patients per week.
Bales said capacity can be stretched even further to 138 spaces on a temporary basis if the need approaches or exceeds 132 patients.
Currently, 124 patients receive dialysis at Red Deer hospital.
“The extra capacity that we added in the summer with the two new stations, and some of the overflow capacity as well as the expansion on the home therapy, has made a real difference to overall access in the area,” Bales said.
“Obviously, dialysis is a life-saving and a specialized service so we’re quite happy that we’ve been able to create that extra capacity. Having said that, we know that there is going to be increasing demand so we’re going to be continually planning on an ongoing basis to try to figure out how to meet that demand and implement that capacity.”
He said there is no plan to increase the number of dialysis chairs in Red Deer this year but more dialysis may be necessary in the next 18 to 24 months.
“In a place like Red Deer, we’re going to have to over time create more capacity and we’re going to probably be really looking to expand the home therapies in particular.”
Other options include adding more dialysis chairs at the hospital, providing dialysis seven days a week instead of the current six, offering dialysis 24 hours a day instead of the day and evening service now available, and the creation of a satellite dialysis office.
On Wednesday, AHS Edmonton announced its three dialysis sites were now open seven days a week to address the growing number of patients with chronic renal failure.
Flavia Robles, executive director of Northern Alberta and the Territories branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, said the need for dialysis continues to increase.
“In Canada, one in 15 people every day are told their kidneys have failed so this is sadly something that is growing,” Robles said.
She said it’s great that Red Deer added two chairs last summer but the rising incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure means more renal failure.
She knows of quite a few patients who are thankful they are on home dialysis.
“Those who have been on it have told me they are so glad they did it and they wouldn’t go back to the hospital for their dialysis treatment. But it isn’t for everyone.”
Robles said some people are not comfortable giving themselves a needle, the equipment requires space, and there’s the cost of electricity and water to run a dialysis machine.
Training also takes six weeks, she said.