Guy and Annie Lambert’s St. Anthony Bight home is almost directly in line with the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital, the only thing stopping you from seeing it are a few craggy hills.
Within the walls of the Labrador-Grenfell Health facility is a dialysis unit that could potentially save Mr. Lambert’s life, yet he may be forced to move to St. John’s or Corner Brook to receive treatment all because that unit only operates three days a week.
The Lamberts have been told they will be forced to move away from their family, friends, church and employment to receive the treatment because the facility already has a maximum of 12 patients with up to five more on the waiting list.
“I wouldn’t mind so much if we didn’t have a [dialysis] unit here, I would understand that we would have to move away,” Ms. Lambert said, “but knowing that we have it here but we can’t access it because it is only open three days a week, well, that don’t make sense.”
Marshall Dean, MHA for The Straits-White Bay North, believes it is a ridiculous situation.
“Surely if we can afford to buy the equipment to offer dialysis we can afford to hire the people needed to operate the machines,” he said.
“With our aging population, the demand for dialysis in rural areas is only going to increase.”
Ms. Lambert said in order to move to St. John’s they would be put in a problematic financial position.
Not only would they have to find somewhere to rent in the province’s capital, Ms. Lambert would have to quit her job at Riffs in St. Anthony, further reducing their income.
With car payments and upkeep on their home, which they resolutely state they will never sell, the cost of the move would be devastating, not to mention being apart from their close family.
“Our specialist asked if we had any family living in St. John’s or Corner Brook we could stay with while he got dialysis,” she said.
“We don’t. We have acquaintances but you’re not going to ask to live with them while he gets treatment three times a week.
“It’s not fair. You work hard all your life and when you retire you get sick and you can’t get treatment in your home town even though they have the facilities.”
While Mr. Lambert is adamant he won’t budge from his home, Ms. Lambert is more circumspect.
“We don’t have no choice,” Ms. Lambert said.
“If he don’t get it he will die but if he has to move he’ll grieve himself to death.”
Ms. Lambert penned a letter to health minister Jerome Kennedy and Labrador-Grenfell Health CEO Boyd Rowe demanding answers.
"You work hard all your life and when you retire you get sick and you can’t get treatment in your home town even though they have the facilities." - Annie Lambert
“How do you think it makes me feel, knowing we have a dialysis unit here and not being about to use it?” she wrote.
“Come on, get moving and do something before somebody dies.
“Why spend money to put dialysis in our hospital if you are not going to give the support to keep it operating to supply patients of this area?”
The stress of the news doesn’t sit well with Mr. Lambert who now lives his life by percentages.
When he was first told five years ago that his kidneys were failing the cause was a mystery. He didn’t have high blood pressure, he was not overweight, and he was not diabetic meaning his problems were hereditary and his kidneys were functioning at just 14 per cent capacity.
For the past four years that figure improved to 20 per cent but earlier this year that number dropped dangerously down to 12 per cent.
When that number drops to 10 per cent, he will need dialysis and according to his specialist, it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
Mr. Kennedy spoke to the Pen and while not wanting to speak about specific cases, he said he was aware of the situation and the difficulty people face in the St. Anthony area in accessing dialysis.
“There are two issues that arise in the budget process, in relation to dialysis,” he said.
“There are a number of places other than St. Anthony looking to expand their dialysis from three days to more to accommodate the wait list then we have a number of places in the province, which are currently looking for new dialysis stations.
“In 2009, St. Anthony provided two additional dialysis machines and a portable water unit and the patient volume went up from nine to 12 but unfortunately there is a list now meaning that people have to relocate to St. John’s.
“We see there are needs for dialysis and that need continues to grow.
“Statistics show that it is growing, that it is something we need to address, whether or not we can address the problems in one budget year, we certainly have to look at the impact and inconvenience to people in terms of their effect on their personal lives and travel.
“These are the kinds of things we are looking at and have to balance out.”