A Glace Bay woman was in dialysis treatment at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Friday morning, while 20 kilometres away an announcement that will be life-changing for her was being made.
On Friday, the grand opening of the Tom Peach Renal Dialysis Clinic was held at the Glace Bay Hospital.
“It’s finally opening, I’m so happy,” said Marg McIntyre after finishing her treatment. Marg, along with husband Jim McIntyre, fought for the opening for more than three years now. “It’s going to change my life greatly.”
The new unit will allow 24 of the approximately 36 patients from Glace Bay on dialysis at the regional hospital to receive treatment close to home.
Marg has to get up at 4:30 a.m. three times a week, leaving for the regional hospital at 6 a.m., not home until at least noon, sometimes suffering travel through harsh weather conditions in the process.
As well, Marg said her husband would obviously have to stay and wait for her due to the distance. Now, he will be able to go home and pick her up later.
On dialysis for four years now, Marg finds it is getting harder. However, she knows of people who have been on it much longer including one man for about 17 years, who finally got a kidney transplant a few weeks ago.
Marg’s not eligible for a transplant due to her health.
“I might not survive it,” she said. “Instead of taking a chance on my life, I’d rather change my life by going into dialysis.”
Sometimes when heading in for her treatment, McIntyre says, 'I’m going into work.’
“I’m working for my life,” she said. By going in there it’s allowing me more years on Earth.
"It’s not nice but it’s giving me my life back.”
Husband Jim, advocating for the new clinic to open for years, said it has been, 'a very exhausting wait.’
“It’s a dream kind of,” he said. “We will be having our own unit in Glace Bay. It will mean 24 people won’t have to travel back and forth to Sydney every day, especially good in the winter.”
Meanwhile at the Glace Bay Hospital Friday, Dr. Elwood MacMullin, the senior medical director for the Glace Bay regional health care redevelopment project, described celebrating the opening as an exciting day.
“We know patients have better health outcomes when they are able to access services in their home community,” he said.
Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan highlighted the renal care nurses, doctors and other staff but also the late Tom Peach of Glace Bay, who left almost $2 million from his estate towards the $8-million project.
“Without question, this wouldn’t be here without Tom Peach,” said MacLellan, attending on behalf of Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine. “It’s a great reference to his character for sure and it’s also a part of his legacy and his family’s legacy and I know they’ll be proud to see it as the Tom Peach Renal Dialysis Unit for the future.”
Dr. Tom Hewlett, chief of nephrology for the Nova Scotia Health Authority Eastern Zone, said they’ve been involved in research in Cape Breton for decades as part of international studies and one thing they found was that for every 15 minutes you have to travel for dialysis therapy, your risk of dying increases.
“Delivering dialysis closer to home is very important to the patients in terms of reducing suffering, reducing travel times and cost for the family and burden on the family. It also makes a difference in terms of their outcomes.”
Hewlett said 24 patients and families will benefit from this new unit but also about a dozen in Sydney not having to spend their Saturday nights at the regional hospital getting dialysis due to the overflow of patients there.
Glenn Meade, chair of the Glace Bay Hospital Foundation, thanked everyone who has continued to support the foundation and contributed to improving health care locally.
Construction of the new Glace Bay unit began in June 2019 by Joneljim Construction.
As part of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Health Care Redevelopment Project, four more stations will be added to North Sydney, increasing from eight to 12.
The main dialysis centre for renal services in the Eastern Zone is at the regional hospital in Sydney with 26 stations. There are also four satellite renal dialysis units across Cape Breton.