Northern residents call for closer dialysis treatment options

By Bryan Eneas
August 1, 2018 - 12:17pm

Some residents of northern Saskatchewan are tired of traveling for dialysis appointments, and they’re petitioning for a treatment centre closer to home.

Mary Ruelling lives in La Loche, but throughout the week she and her son Dwayne, who’s waiting for a kidney transplant, travel for more than six hours to Saskatoon in order for him to receive his dialysis treatments. The family has been making the trips for the last year, she said, leading her to start circulating the petition through the North.

“There are no machines closer than North Battleford, and there’s a unit in Prince Albert, and there’s a unit at St. Paul’s in Saskatoon,” Ruelling said. “It’s not a fun place to be, because everyone wants to be at home doing their own thing close to family and friends.”

The dialysis process takes three to four hours, she said, and is extremely tiring for patients. Once the treatment is complete, she said her son sometimes has to wait three to four hours for a taxi to take him back home, a ride which lasts another six and a half hours.

Ruelling and her son aren’t alone in La Loche. She said there are six or seven other local patients who are also required to make the same trips for dialysis treatments. Having a dialysis unit closer to home would let those patients spend more time with their families instead of waiting in hospital waiting rooms. The costs of spending time in the city can also present a struggle, Ruelling added.

“While you’re in the city, it’s always costly to do things,” she said. “You always have to take a taxi because you don’t have a vehicle … if you don’t have money, you’re stuck in your hotel room.”

The petition, which has been distributed through La Loche, has generated roughly 50 signatures so far. Ruelling said she plans to bring the document to other nearby communities like Île-à-la-Crosse and Beauval to generate more support. She said she’d be happy with an additional dialysis treatment location in either Île-à-la-Crosse or La Loche, as both are easily accessible to the majority of northern residents. Ruelling’s petition also called for more training and equipment to be supplied to the regional hospital in Île-à-la-Crosse.

“Through the use of Telehealth videoconferencing technology, clients will be able to access a nephrologist without having to make the trip to Saskatoon for all their consultations,” Ruelling wrote in the petition.


--With files from Charlene Tebbutt

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On Twitter: @BryanEneas

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