Transplant patients access follow-up care closer to home

NANAIMO – Island Health opens new outpatient clinic in Nanaimo.

Transplant patients north of the Malahat will be able to access follow-up care closer to home with the opening of a new outpatient clinic in Nanaimo.

Island Health has announced a new regional outpatient transplant clinic for Nanaimo, which is expected to open this April.

The service, the second of its kind on Vancouver Island, will offer transplant patients counseling, blood work and monitoring of medication that they previously had to get in Vancouver or at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital.

It’s all part of expanding renal services in the central Island, according to Bill Kane, Island Health’s director of renal services, who says travelling over the Malahat is a scary thing for a lot of people, especially in the winter.

A large portion of patients – about 175 – who live in the central and north Island will have better access to patient care services closer to where they live, said Kane, who calls it “a positive step forward in providing access to the care patients’ need.”

Vince Cownden, a Cobble Hill resident and kidney transplant patient, says he would use the Nanaimo clinic, which he considers an easier drive than Victoria, where he has to cross the Malahat and “go all across the city.”

The new clinic would also be tremendously helpful for anybody north of Cobble Hill, he said.

“People who live in Nanaimo even and beyond having to go to Victoria, it’s not just inconvenient, it’s a big deal and … if your health is not 100 per cent and you are not able to do all the driving that just adds to it,” he said.

Nanaimo’s Melanie Kirk, who received her kidney transplant more than a year ago, said there are those who don’t drive or have the transportation to make the trip to Victoria, so “it definitely is an advantage.”

She will be three blocks from the new clinic, although has mixed feelings about the service. Kirk has had the same kidney specialist in Victoria for 18 years.

“Logically, I understand that with as busy and overcrowded as they are in Victoria, they have to shift some patients,” she said. “I have no reason to not be willing to make the changes with all the benefits of not having to drive down … but I am kind of hesitant to lose the guy I’ve known for such a long time.”

The new clinic, a partnership with B.C. Transplant, will open in 2015 at the kidney care clinic in Beaufort Centre.