Dialysis to double
With an ever increasing demand for services, Haemodialysis Nurse Unit Manager Natalie Sheehan says the GV Health redevelopment has commenced in the nick of time.
“We have one of the highest populations of patients with declining renal function, and a diverse array of renal diseases in the region,” says Ms Sheehan. “Years ago, it was identified that our service was going to hit capacity pretty quickly – luckily GV Health received the funding to go forward with the redevelopment.”
The clinic presently offers a seven chair dialysis service, and is the only regional facility to offer a night shift service. With 42 patients on the roster being treated four to six hours a day, six days a week, it’s clear that an upgrade will be enthusiastically received.
“We have a very unique relationship with our clientele, and strive to provide the best treatment,” says Ms Sheehan. “Dialysis is a palliative treatment. Our patients have kidneys that no longer function properly, which means they come to us three times a week so we can clean their blood, remove excess water and so that they can remain functioning at a high level. We normally do haemodialysis and haemofiltration, which is the gold standard of therapies.”
Opening in 2019, the first stage of the redevelopment will include a state of the art facility with 16 dialysis chairs, which will allow the unit to treat 96 patients. The facility will also include a home training area – previously only accessible in metropolitan hospitals – meaning that staff will be able to train patients to dialyse at home and keep their treatment local.
“One of the biggest issues we have with patients going on to home dialysis is that they are required to go to their parent hospital, in this case St Vincent’s in Melbourne,” explains Ms Sheehan. “Training someone to go onto home haemodialysis takes 12 weeks, which means 12 weeks of patients having to fund their own transport and accommodation, being away from their family and being away from their work. We’ll be able to provide the services locally within two years. That’s a huge impact.”
One of the biggest issues confronting dialysis patients is their inability to travel. The GV Health dialysis clinic attempts to make seats available to visiting patients, but emphasises that bookings should be made as early as possible. The clinic also provides respite for home dialysis patients, in the event their carers are unavailable.
The clinic also plans to employ a local home therapies nurse, and that will include an on call service that will be able to assist people who dialyse over night at home, providing local patients with extra treatment options.
The majority of patients are on dialysis for life.
“We get to know our patients really well,” says Ms Sheehan. “There are quite an eclectic range, from paediatric up to 82 years old, and we see them every day over years or even decades.”
There are 29,000 patients on haemodialysis Australia-wide, meaning that transplant waiting lists can be long. In Victoria, there is an average five year transplant waiting list.
“Some patients may be lucky enough to be compatible and transplanted within 12 months of starting dialysis,” says Ms Sheehan. “Whereas some patients have been on the list for a decade.”
The unit has recently employed Consultant Nephrologist & Physician Anil Xavier (see sidebar), who is passionate about live kidney donation in particular.
“Having someone of Anil’s calibre will enable us to provide a lot more,” says Ms Sheehan.
“He’s really patient and outcome focused… very passionate.”
Assistant Nurse Unit Manager Samara Smith is training to become a nurse practitioner.
“The plan is that we have a regional coordinator because we have so many patients, there’s not a lot of intercommunication. It’s all about providing locals with local training and local support.”
Ms Sheehan says that the GV Health dialysis unit’s main objective is to provide the highest standard of service to as many locals as possible.
“We’re always looking at ways to increase productivity and outcomes, and the new facility will allow us to continue to provide the best treatment we possibly can.”