Nova Scotia

Dialysis drive too far for Shelburne woman

A Shelburne woman who drives her husband hundreds of kilometres for medical treatment each week is pleading with the Nova Scotia government to establish a dialysis unit in her community.

A Shelburne woman who drives her husband hundreds of kilometres for medical treatment each week is pleading with the Nova Scotia government to establish a dialysis unit in her community.

Alice Stewart and her husband Bill live minutes away from the Roseway Hospital in Shelburne, but must travel to Yarmouth Regional Hospital three times a week for Bill to get the necessary treatment.

The route the Stewarts take from Shelburne to Yarmouth is about 100 kilometres each way.

"It's hard. Along with being expensive, it's tiring," said Alice Stewart.

"The winter was terrible. It was just unbelievable. There's no way of describing it unless you've been there but the roads are not good from here to Yarmouth."

The 84-year-old woman has been her husband's main driver for the past four years, since Bill Stewart began dialysis. She said at first, family and friends helped out.

"The first year we went, we had lots of people offering but the novelty wore off very quickly," she told CBC News.

"It's hard. They're working. They all have jobs to do and it's difficult."

Stewart said what's galling is having to drive past the Roseway Hospital on her way to Yarmouth. The couple bought their current home because it's close to the hospital.

"I bought about a kilometre from the hospital thinking we were going to be so lucky. We could take care of ourselves here. Have meals on wheels. We'd be independent. Then this happened," said Stewart.

"If we had the dialysis here in Shelburne it would just be a short distance to take him and bring him home."

No plans for Shelburne unit

Nova Scotia has invested $1 million this year to bolster dialysis treatment across the province and hire more nurses so people can be treated closer to home. But, officials said there are no plans to open a dialysis unit in Shelburne.

The only new unit planned is one in Inverness that is to open next year.

Cathy Blades, the vice-president of clinical care at Yarmouth Regional Hospital, said of the nearly 40 people who use the dialysis unit there, three come from the Shelburne area.

She said setting up a dialysis unit is not a simple task.

"We all work together to try to make sure that we're providing as good a service as close to home as we can, but it also has to be safe and it has to be expert and it has to be supported by the right clinical pieces," Blades told CBC News.

"I think the province is trying to be responsive to the need, for sure."

While there is also the option of home dialysis, Blades said most people currently prefer hospital care because of how much work is involved in home dialysis.

Of the approximately 650 people receiving dialysis in Nova Scotia, about 100 people are doing it from home.

"It's a huge commitment for the individual who is not feeling well or the family or the community or whoever is actually taking care of them," said Blades.

"You have to do the exchanges four or six times a day, every day, and so it's a huge commitment to do that and sometimes it's easier to come to the clinic three times a week."

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