Editor’s note: this letter was sent to B.C. Health Minister Margaret
MacDiarmid and copied to Interior Health officials, local elected officials, and local media.
Dear Minister MacDiarmid,
The people of Golden and the Columbia Valley continue to be very disappointed in your Ministry’s response to the closure of the Invermere Dialysis Unit. Although it is clear that some efforts have been taken to brief you on this issue, and that understanding is apparent in your responses, I believe that you are not fully aware of the whole story. I would like to correct that situation now.
Thus far, three main arguments have been used to defend the closure: low patient volumes, limited staff, and that home dialysis is Interior Health’s preferred method of treatment. None of these arguments stands up to scrutiny.
First, the permanent closure of the Invermere Dialysis Unit has caused at least two dialysis patients to move from their homes and families in Invermere to be closer to dialysis treatment. And, the closure of the unit has stopped the ability of out-of-province visitors to come to the Columbia Valley and still receive the treatment they cannot live without.
In the Columbia Valley Pioneer, we read of yet another out-of-province patient who is no longer able to travel to Invermere for his regular vacation. This removes not only the revenue to the dialysis program, but it lessens the attractiveness of this area to visitors and second home owners. This has real economic impacts on this valley.
These facts discount the argument that there is only one patient and therefore the unit must be closed. The truth is that there would be three dialysis patients at this time if the unit had remained open.
Second, it is a conscious choice on the part of Interior Health to reject the creative solutions offered by renal staff throughout the region. Health providers in rural areas are often expected to travel to provide service and to work alone in challenging situations. And programs lauded by Interior Health are often provided with these strictures. This clinic is no different.
It has been suggested by renal service providers that this clinic could be supported by a number of means including relief provided by travelling staff, patients travelling occasionally to another centre to provide relief, and training back-up staff within the existing nursing staff in the Invermere area.
While some efforts were made as part of the implementation of a ‘return to work’ plan that effort was suddenly halted when the last-minute decision was made to permanently close the clinic.
Third, the claim that Interior Health’s preferred method of renal treatment is home dialysis is, as you know, only medically supportable in some cases. As a doctor, you understand better than anyone that for some renal patients home dialysis will never be an option. Kirt Sellers is only one of these patients.
The communities of Golden and Invermere have been clear: they do not accept the decision to close the Invermere Dialysis Unit.
I would ask that you seriously reconsider your position on this matter.
Norm Macdonald MLA
Columbia River – Revelstoke