By Greg Amos
The planned removal of a recently-renovated blood hemodialysis unit from the Invermere and District Hospital is prompting an uproar that many community members hope will be enough to make Interior Health reconsider the change.
While the District of Invermere passed a motion on Tuesday, January 22nd to send a strongly-worded letter of opposition to the plan, some of the strongest criticism is coming from an Interior Health employee — environmental health inspector Kirt Sellers, an Invermere resident who must now travel three times each week to Cranbrook to receive hemodialysis.
“It’s been a long-time established service here, and the nature of the program isn’t always sustainable,” said Mr. Sellers. “But it’s in place, the unit is fully set up and ready to go, and the nurse that provided the service is in place. I feel that the whole program has never been properly managed; it’s been inadequately resourced.”
The dialysis unit has been in Invermere for about 12 years, serving those with kidney health issues the throughout the Upper Columbia Valley, including the Golden area. But a lack of patients combined with staffing challenges make it unsustainable to keep open, said Interior Health regional director of renal services Paula James.
“The challenge has been that Invermere is the only unit of its kind in B.C. that was operating with a single renal nurse, which created issues related to covering any sick or vacation leaves and providing for ongoing peer support,” she wrote in a Friday, January 11th memo, which announced the closure just before the unit was set to be re-opened on Monday following a temporary closure that began last August.
That left the community feeling “broadsided” by the news, said Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft.
“When you have a situation where the equipment is already in the community, the staffing’s
there, and there’s the ability to train additional staff to have coverage in the case of sickness or leave . . this is a service that could be and should be provided,” he said.
The clinic’s reverse osmosis dialysis equipment is already slated to be transferred to a clinic in
Sparwood, said Ms. James