TRURO - Ellison Murphy's stress level has taken a major nosedive.
With Old Man Winter lurking just around the corner, Murphy was dreading his thrice-weekly trips from Truro to Halifax for dialysis treatments.
"The biggest thing right now is going to be the stress level off my shoulders," he said Friday, regarding seven new dialysis chairs that are being added into an expanded renal dialysis unit at the new Colchester East Hants Health Centre.
"My wife is very happy because of this because mainly when I go to Halifax I'm driving alone," the Truro resident said. "So now she is excited that I'm not going to be on the highway during the winter. So that's the biggest thing."
Murphy is one of about 18 kidney sufferers from the area who currently receive dialysis treatments every other day. With only three beds at the existing hospital, however, that means 13 renal kidney patients have to make the return trip to Halifax three times per week. After sitting in the dialysis chair for between four and five hours each time while their blood is drained from their bodies, filtered and put back in, the return trip is not something they look forward to.
The seven chairs are to be phased in to the new health centre in coming months but Murphy said he has been told he can expect to begin receiving local treatments by about the end of November.
"I know, OK, I'm just a few minutes from going to the dialysis unit now, so that's time saved that you can use towards even just hanging out with family or whatever," he said.
There will also be cost savings of approximately $100 per week that he will no longer have to undertake, Murphy said.
"The extra money is going to help but for me it's the stress. When I get to Halifax in the morning my blood pressure is high, just from driving over the highway. I find there's a lot of traffic on the highway in the morning. This time of year it's really stressful because you don't know what wildlife is going to be (on the road)."
Truro-Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann said Murphy is not the only one whose stress level will be reduced.
"I actually know that there's a number of people who are going to be very, very excited about this because they've been hoping for it for a long time," she said.
"When I first came to government I had a number of people, a lot of people saying to me, 'you know, this is killing us. We have to go to Halifax three times a week.' Oftentimes some of them didn't have transportation, so they would have to scrounge drives, they were taking the bus," she said.
"It's draining ... and it was really tiring and it was frustrating for them."
The cost to add the seven new chairs to the hospital is about $1 million, which is being paid by the province. That figure also covers the cost of training new registered nurses who will be required to assist with the program.
The extra chairs will accommodate up to 40 patients from Tatamagouche to Stewiacke.
"This investment will improve the lives of dialysis patients and their families," said health centre CEO Peter MacKinnon.
"We are pleased that the opening of our new health centre will allow more of our residents to remain here for care."
Since about 2001, dialysis treatments at Colchester Regional Hospital have been through a satellite program offered by Capital Health in Halifax. After Jan. 1, responsibility for the program will fall to the new health centre.
- Across the province, about 615 Nova Scotians receive dialysis. 510 receive hemodialysis treatment (in hospital) and 105 peritoneal treatment (at home).
The province is investing more than $1 million to add the seven new chairs. Since 2009, the province has previously announced more than $2 million in investments to improve services for Nova Scotians with kidney failure and their families, including:
- $420,000 to plan the expansion of the renal dialysis unit of the Dickson Building at the QEII Health Sciences Centre
- $100,000 for peritoneal dialysis training and support programs in South West Nova Scotia
- $526,000 for home hemodialysis machines for patients in Cape Breton District Health Authority and Capital Health
- $988,000 to hire 12 additional registered nurse fill-time equivalents to provide more complex care at satellite dialysis units.