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Argyle-Barrington MLA raises concern about on-call dialysis services

The Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
The Yarmouth Regional Hospital. - Tina Comeau
YARMOUTH, N.S. —

Argyle-Barrington MLA Colton LeBlanc is drawing attention to the fact the regional hospital in Yarmouth cannot administer dialysis treatment on Sundays, saying it’s unacceptable to put patients in a position where they have to worry for their health if an emergency arises.
In a media release, LeBlanc outlined a recent situation for Artie Smith of Woods Harbour, Shelburne County. Smith has spent several hours, three days a week, for seven years, driving back and forth to the Yarmouth Regional for dialysis treatments. 
“He became acutely ill last month, and when admitted to the Yarmouth Regional, he and his wife knew that the hospital had no dialysis service or emergency on-call dialysis nurse on Sundays. They hoped that one of the nurses contacted would come in to work,” LeBlanc said.
“The situation with my husband was very frightening,” said Lee Goreham-Smith, Artie’s wife. “The health-care staff tried to put calls out to bring someone in to do his dialysis, but it was their day off with family and I respect that.”
Goreham-Smith said an on-call dialysis nurse should be available when emergencies arise.
“How can you have a regional hospital which offers dialysis services and not have an emergency on-call dialysis nurse? Management of the Yarmouth Hospital Dialysis Unit needs to make this change immediately,” said Goreham-Smith. “I can’t stress enough that I have total respect for the nurses. They are a dedicated, hard-working, compassionate team. This situation is a result of severe breakdown in management.”
Nova Scotia Health Authority spokesman Fraser Mooney said the health authority cannot speak specifically about the patient LeBlanc referred to.
He said the Yarmouth Regional Hospital renal dialysis service serves patients from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
“We are constantly reviewing our practices to see where we can improve and how we can most appropriately serve our patients,” Mooney said. “The need to make local RN on-call support available on Sundays has been identified. We have been working on how we can put a Sunday on-call schedule in place.
“It is important to know that as one system, we are able to depend on-support from the entire renal program in other parts of the province to help ensure we continue to provide life-saving treatment at all sites, including Yarmouth,” he added. “There are processes in place, and staff are trained to respond to situations, such as when an inpatient experiences an urgent health-care issue after hours.”
MLA LeBlanc said the option available for Artie Smith was to dispatch a dialysis nurse from Halifax, “at great expense to the hospital, and at the risk of endangering his life if the nurse did not arrive in time,” he said. LeBlanc said Health Minister Randy Delorey must make sure dialysis patients have treatment available at regional hospitals and also improve dialysis services in rural Nova Scotia communities like Barrington, which has been seeking a satellite dialysis unit for years.
“Nova Scotians in southwestern Nova Scotia deserve the same access to dialysis treatments as the rest of the province,” LeBlanc said, adding about the on-call issue, “It’s a common-sense policy change that would save lives and make sure what happened to this family doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
LeBlanc recently raised the issue during question period in the Nova Scotia Legislature. 
Mooney, meanwhile, said the health authority encourages feedback.
“We encourage patients and their families to share their experiences with us in order to provide better, safer care,” he said. 

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