Nelson Snow (left), president of the Summerside Rotary Club meets with Alan MacPhee following his address on the importance of maintaining Island-wide dialysis service. Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE - Eliminating rural dialysis services is not the best way to save money, says Souris businessman and rural community advocate Alan MacPhee.
MacPhee made his remarks to members of the Summerside Rotary Club on behalf of Nathan Bushey, president of the P.E.I. Dialysis Support Group-East.
"We were shocked to hear that Health P.E.I. had announced a proposal to close rural dialysis centres," MacPhee said. "The facilities in Alberton and in Souris are established and newly renovated. The equipment is up-to-date. They have a full complement of fully-trained staff. They're operating at full capacity and functioning well."
He said the clear trend in other Canadian jurisdictions is to decentralize dialysis "even into public venues such as shopping malls."
"Yet there was an announcement to close these vital community health services and there doesn't appear to be any sense in the proposal," MacPhee said. "The negative implications are substantial and require comment in three prime areas. One is the complete disruption of the lives of dialysis patients and their families. Another is a huge cost increase to Health Care P.E.I. and, thirdly, government is entirely missing the mark in its decision-making process by not focusing on better, more cost effective treatments."
He said rural areas such as Souris are perceived as being a poor area that draws on provincial coffers.
"Actually, our economy is focused on primary industries and we are in fact a tax engine sending millions of tax dollars into the provincial coffers every year," MacPhee said. "Despite that, over the last 10 years, rural hospital administration was reduced because we were told it would result in more frontline services, yet our emergency clinic was closed, walk-in clinics reduced and ambulance service reduced."
MacPhee said cutting rural dialysis service will not save the province money and will create millions of dollars in cost increases over the next 10 years.
"The nurse-patient ratio in Charlottetown is the same as they are in Souris or Alberton so there are no labour efficiencies. There are huge increases in nephrologists' fees. There are substantial cost increases in the proposal in facilities expansion, equipment purchases, hospital, stays, ambulance requirements, travel contract costs for staff and patient travel costs."
MacPhee said most people on dialysis are in the fifth stage of chronic kidney disease where the kidneys do not have enough function to keep a person alive without dialysis.
"If a dialysis patient misses an appointment there is a build up of fluid in the body that can only be removed by dialysis," MacPhee said. "In rural areas, if sessions are missed due to storms, the nurses and patients make up for it the next day.
"One of the key concerns now is that the Queen Elizabeth dialysis centre is at or close to full operating capacity and if rural patients miss sessions because of poor driving conditions there is limited or no opportunity to make it up the next day."
MacPhee noted that the Kidney Foundation says dialysis is the 20th Century treatment and kidney transplants are the 21st Century for kidney failure.
He said Health P.E.I. has five communication specialists but doesn't have a part-time transplant co-ordinator.
"We have a simple message for Health P.E.I., and the minister of Health and the premier: if you want to dramatically enhance patients lives and save millions of dollars in health care costs, maintain Island-wide dialysis and assign someone to work as a provincial transplant co-ordinator."