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‘It will be a real help’: 2020 still eyed as completion date for satellite dialysis unit in Digby

Digby County resident Roger Manzer undergoes one of his three weekly dialysis visits at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Digby County resident Roger Manzer undergoes one of his three weekly dialysis visits at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. TINA COMEAU PHOTO - Tina Comeau

DIGBY – There are a lot of people who will be grateful to see a kidney dialysis unit constructed in Digby. You can count Roger Manzer as belonging to this club.

Three times a week Manzer has to travel around 80 kilometres each way from his home in Ashmore, Digby County to the Yarmouth Regional Hospital for kidney dialysis.

Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
Yarmouth Regional Hospital.

“It pretty well takes the day. I have appointments that are at 8:30 in the morning. I get up around 6 a.m. to get ready to go and then I get back around 3:30 p.m.,” says Manzer.

The dialysis itself takes up a huge chunk of his week – he’s on dialysis for four hours at a time – but the traveling back and forth adds to this. He says it takes a big toll.

“It tires me out because I’m not in real good health. I can do it, but it would be a lot better if there was (a unit) handier,” he says. From his home the drive to a dialysis unit in Digby would be about 15 minutes.

In January 2017, planning for a new satellite dialysis unit was announced for the Digby Regional Hospital and in March 2018 the province announced more details pertaining to construction, saying it had approved $7.4 million for the detailed design and construction of a six-station dialysis unit that will serve around 24 patients.

For patients in Digby and Annapolis counties it will cut down travel time as many travel to the unit in Yarmouth. (A dialysis unit is also being built in Kentville.) The new units will relieve pressure at other dialysis centres, such as the one in Yarmouth.

DIGBY UNIT CONSTRUCTION

A year ago the province said construction of the Digby unit was expected to be complete in 2020. This is still the timeline being looked at.

Digby General Hospital
Digby General Hospital

Fraser Mooney, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, says the project is making progress. Phase one of the project involves renovations to the 3rd floor of the Digby hospital to accommodate offices that need to be relocated from the 1st floor where the renal dialysis unit will be built.

“Work on phase one is currently underway. This work could take several months. It requires some demolition and then reconstruction work,” Mooney says. “Once completed, and the office space is relocated to the 3rd floor, work on phase two can begin. The completion of the entire project is targeted for winter 2020.”

“We know residents in Digby and Annapolis counties are looking forward to being able to receive this service closer to home,” says Mooney.

Unlike people for whom traveling to and from Yarmouth has been a way of life for years, Manzer is relatively new to dialysis. He had diabetes for many years, as well as high blood pressure. Both things, he says, works against your kidneys.

“Sometimes I took medication that was bad for the kidneys, but I didn’t know,” he says. “The doctors would try to figure it out, but sometimes you’d get a pill that you really needed and it’s hard on the kidneys. So you gain one way and loss the other.”

He did change his diet, figuring he could beat things. But eventually he got so sick dialysis was the only option. Once you go on dialysis – unless you get a transplant – you’re on it forever, he says.

Roger Manzer and his wife Shirley. She helps him pass the time during his dialysis and on the drive there and back. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Roger Manzer and his wife Shirley. She helps him pass the time during his dialysis and on the drive there and back. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Manzer is retired so his treatment doesn’t interfere with a job. He says there are appointments that happen during “the night shift” to help people who require dialysis but also have jobs. “There’s a Baptist minister in Ashmore and he goes evenings, because it works out for him.”

There are expenses associated with the frequent weekly hospital trips, including gas and sometimes meals. Manzer’s wife Shirley often makes the trip with him to help him pass the time during the dialysis, and when she can’t go another support person will go in her place. The couple, who recently celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary, know of people who travel from Annapolis to Yarmouth for their dialysis.

“If they had it in Digby it will be a real help,” says Manzer.

Manzer says the people who work in the dialysis unit at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital are really good to work with when it comes to attending appointments or maybe having to reschedule them in the case of inclement weather.

“They’re unbelievable,” he says.


IN BARRINGTON:

No new is not good news

BARRINGTON – There’s been a push elsewhere in southwestern Nova Scotia for dialysis services but those efforts have gone nowhere to date.

For years residents have been asking for a satellite dialysis clinic in Barrington. Years ago a group met with the health minister and presented letters signed by residents pointing to the need. Individual cases were provided as examples of the physical, emotional and financial hardships which patients must endure due to the travel to Yarmouth, Liverpool or other areas for dialysis.

Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d’Entremont has also been pushing for a satellite unit. Asked on Jan. 28 where things stand, he said there’s nothing new to report.

He said with new units going into the Digby and Kentville hospitals he’s been told there will be an evaluation after those units have been constructed to see if other areas, such as Barrington, should be candidates for dialysis.

But d’Entremont admitted he’s not feeling hopeful. “I’m not getting a good feeling,” he said.

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