Invermere and District Hospital. Kristian Rasmussen photo.

Invermere and District Hospital. Kristian Rasmussen photo.

By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

After local, regional and provincial politicians expressed their dismay towards the removal of the community dialysis unit from the Invermere and District Hospital, Interior Health has agreed to a 90-day freeze on its moving plans, and will hold a special meeting with the board of Kootenay East Regional Hospital District.

Its pretty positive news, said Mayor Gerry Taft of the announcement made on Friday, February 8th. It seems like weve got their attention.

The closure was discussed at the Friday, February 1st Regional District of East Kootenay meeting in Cranbrook, where the board unanimously agreed to send a strongly-worded letter to the Interior Health Authority and the BC Renal Agency, the body which funds dialysis service.

A similar motion was also passed at the District of Invermere meeting on Tuesday, January 22nd, where mayor and council agreed to write a letter challenging Interior Healths decision to remove the dialysis unit.

The letter was sent to Premier Christy Clark, Health Minister Margaret McDiarmid and many others.

Shifting demographics are the reason behind the

decision to move the dialysis unit away from the valley, re-iterated Interior Health regional director of renal health services Paula James in an interview with The Pioneer.

Weve had detailed discussions and conversations about the sustainability of the unit with limited patient volume, and right now we only have one renal patient, and ongoing staffing challenges, she said. One reason for a declining renal patient population has to do with home treatment; its actually an effective alternative to having to facilitate renal dialysis. Theres no cost for the patient to do that.

But Interior Health has also worked to erode the need for the service in Invermere, said Mayor Taft.

Arguments Interior Health is making about only having one staff person, only having one patient those, in our belief, are realities that Interior Health helped create, he said. They chose not to train or hire any other [renal staff]; they basically chose to have the service be inconsistent, forcing people to move away or use the home machines so that there only was one patient left. Had it been managed properly, I think wed see that thered be more than one patient, thered be more than one staff person and the service would be

running properly.

The regional hospital district board also voted unanimously in disapproving Interior Healths relocation of Invermeres dialysis unit.

Board chair John Kettle noted Interior Health normally consults the board regarding issues that could adversely affect the involved communities.

Somebody had a misstep and I think were going to be able to resolve it, Kettle said. It makes no sense to pull a unit out and then have to backfill it when the demographics change.

All training equipment and supplies, supply delivery and home technical support costs involved in home peritoneal dialysis are covered by the BC Renal Agency, explained Interior Health spokesperson Karl Hardt.

The same applies to costs for renovations needed for plumbing and electrical changes to support home hemodialysis, he added.