More local patients with chronic kidney disease can access dialysis at the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre, as the satellite hemodialysis unit is now open seven days a week to offer additional appointment times.

The unit is open 7 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. Previously, the unit was open six days a week. The extra service hours will provide space for 12 additional patients from the Wetaskiwin area to receive the care they need closer to home, accommodating all patients that were on the wait list as of Feb. 1.

“I’m very pleased more patients from the Wetaskiwin area will be able access to critical kidney care within their community seven days a week,” says Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health. “Thanks to Alberta Health Services and all the staff involved for expanding the hours of the dialysis clinic and being so responsive to local needs. This work strengthens our public health system and puts the needs of patients front and centre.”

“I’m grateful our local care teams have found a way to expand dialysis services in Wetaskiwin,” says Rick Wilson, MLA for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. “It’s good to know more local residents who require dialysis treatments can undergo the procedure right here in our community.”

Hemodialysis is the process of cleansing the blood of toxins and excess fluid when normal kidney function is reduced. A patient’s blood is filtered through a dialyzer and returned to the body. Treatment, which can take four hours, is often required three times a week.

“We know that travelling for medical needs can be a burden to rural patients and their families. Receiving treatment close to home helps decrease the burden of travel and improves quality of life for our patients,” says Tracy Delorme, interim executive director of Alberta Kidney Care - North. “We are very grateful to all the stakeholders involved in making this expansion of capacity in Central Zone possible.”

Kirstin Hubert, a patient whose treatments have shifted from Edmonton to Wetaskiwin Hospital, says she’s “ecstatic” about the expansion.

“My drive time will be cut in half and I will not have the cost of parking associated with my five-hour dialysis treatments that take place three times a week,” Hubert says. “I am hopeful this move will make the treatments much less costly and less stressful for me and my family.”

Dialysis is offered in other communities within AHS Central Zone, including Drayton Valley, Drumheller, Lloydminster, Olds, Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House, Stettler and Vegreville.

An aging population, rising diabetes rates leading to renal failure, and patients living longer on dialysis due to medical advancements are all factors contributing to increased demand for dialysis across the province.

The recent expansion of dialysis services at the William J. Cadzow – Lac La Biche Healthcare Centre to seven days a week is another example of how dialysis services are expanding provincewide to serve more patients.

Alberta Kidney Care-North provides assessment, treatment, and follow-up for people with kidney problems in a geographical area that includes central and northern Alberta, where more than 182,000 facility-based hemodialysis treatments were delivered last year.

The program also provides other treatments for kidney failure, including peritoneal dialysis, home hemodialysis, and conservative care, which enables patients who may not tolerate dialysis to enjoy the best quality of life possible without hemodialysis.