Dialysis gets much needed funding boost

Bill Harper was surprised when he was told there were no places available at Bendigo Health for his dialysis treatment and that he would have to go on a waiting list. 

Mr Harper, 67, called Bendigo Health to start dialysis a couple of weeks ago just after an operation removing his second kidney.

"I just expected to ring up, turn up and start dialysis," Mr Harper said.

Bendigo Health told Mr Harper there were no places available at the hospital and that he would have to put his name on a waiting list. 

But with no kidneys to cleanse his blood and unable to pass urine, waiting was not an option.

"I was just amazed that something as basic as dialysis was not available," Mr Harper said. Mr Harper went to Melbourne for treatment where he and his wife began considering living there five days a week to avoid the exhaustion of regular travel. 

He was later offered a place at Kyneton Hospital, where he now attends three times a week. 

I just expected to ring up, turn up and start dialysis. - Bill Harper

But Mr Harper is concerned about the lack of resources at Bendigo Health and said he hoped to be able to go there in the future. 

Executive director of medical services at Bendigo Health Dr Andre Nel said the hospital could not accept Mr Harper because of a rise in demand for dialysis. 

"We've had a significant increase in demand in the last number of months and in order to accommodate that we have now applied for more funding for extra shifts in order to accommodate more patients," Dr Nel said. 

Dr Nel said the state government had recently given funding to the hospital which it has put towards increasing its intake of dialysis patients. 

Bendigo Health will do this by creating an extra shift each day, meaning it has to hire more staff.

"This is not an issue with equipment or money at this stage, it's simply a matter of going through a human resources process," Dr Nel said. 

He said the hospital currently served 48 dialysis patients a week, but the new funding would allow for 12 more patients per week.

He said the extra places would not be available until November because the hospital had to consult with the union.

"Some of these shifts go quite late into the evening and staff need to be consulted on that and be given an opportunity to consider that."

He said Bendigo Health would be able to offer Mr Harper a place in November. 

He also said the new hospital under construction would be better resourced for dialysis. 

He said there would be 16 chairs for dialysis outpatients and a eight chairs for hospitalised patients. 

"We've got significant capacity to expand in the future," Dr Nel said.

A spokesman for state health minister David Davis said the Coalition Government had increased funding for Bendigo Health by more than $11 million. 

"Bendigo Health has experienced growth in demand for dialysis services in the past six months and is expanding the dialysis unit as a priority," the spokesman said. 

Dialysis is a time consuming treatment. Patients have to travel to hospital three times a week, and sit, for four hours each time, while all the blood in their body is filtered and cleaned and then put back in their body. 

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