Centre to offer life-saving dialysis
A new service is imminent for the island's growing population of dialysis patients.
Two years in the making, Bermuda Life Centre expects its approval next month from the Bermuda Health Council.
The private centre will offer patients life-saving haemodialysis for the first time outside King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
Perinoteal dialysis is also offered and the facility hopes to provide nocturnal haemodialysis, as well as home haemodialysis.
For medical director Lynette Thomas, who has watched the island's dialysis community double in size, the latest step marks a victory for patient services.
“I wanted to provide choice in where patients have treatment,” said Dr Thomas, the hospital's former director of nephrology, who continues to run her private practice and treat patients at KEMH.
The new clinic will ease demand on the hospital's services and give patients who wish for a more intimate setting another option for treatment.
For many, the dialysis clinic is “like a second home — we can see them more than their own families”, she said.
Dialysis prices are set by the Council, meaning the clinic, located at 131 Front Street, comes with the same price tag as other services. Now Dr Thomas is advocating for tweaks to the Government's insurance system to improve coverage for kidney transplant patients.
“Five years of dialysis can cost $1 million per patient — for transplants we're looking at maybe $250,000 for five years after their first year,” Dr Thomas said.
The coverage allowance under HIP and FutureCare was upped from $100,000 to $150,000 over the summer, but she said that “if we mean what we say about increasing the transplant numbers, we have to adjust the plan”.
A HIP patient, for example, might not be covered for travel overseas or testing abroad. Transplants ultimately represent a significant saving, as well as better quality of life, she said.
The majority of transplants are reaped from tragedy, but a healthy person “can live fine with one kidney — we need to address the concerns and superstitions about donating”.
So-called live donors are often relatives of patients.
Dr Thomas said: “But very often we get family members coming to donate who have the same disorders, which preclude them from donating.
“I'd like to see more educational efforts for the community and encouraging of people to donate.”
The approval from the Bermuda Health Council is anticipated for next month, when Dr Thomas also plans to open discussions with the Government's health insurance department.
Treatment came early for journalist Bryan Darby, who commended the service received at both the hospital and at Bermuda Life Centre, where he offered to become the first patient.
Mr Darby said that the stress entailed in the closure of VSB contributed to the dangerously high blood pressure that left him as a dialysis patient.
“There are so many people in my position — those lives have been changed for ever, but the services we get are extraordinary,” he said.
“Diabetes is the main cause, but for me it was high blood pressure — and I didn't know I had it.”
Mr Darby learnt of his “deadly” high blood pressure after symptoms ranging from a metallic taste in his mouth to mood swings.
His doctor sent him directly to the hospital: his kidneys had failed and required immediate and major diagnosis.
Mr Darby joined the roughly 180 people going through the hospital's Beresford Swan unit every week.
Getting dialysis twice a week there restored his health, but he opted to become the “test patient” for Bermuda Life Centre because of its proximity to his old workplace in Hamilton.
“It suited me — I've had a wonderful experience there the last few months,” Mr Darby said.
“My results have gone from being very good to excellent. I go three times a week — it's changed my life.”