HIGH demand for renal dialysis in Tamworth has seen some patients travel to Armidale hospital for treatment.
Hunter New England Health (HNEH) confirmed some patients were helped to travel to Armidale last year because of the load on Tamworth’s unit.
There had been suggestions these trips were by taxi and cost about $500, but HNEH did not comment on the cost.
The unit has 11 chairs that operate two shifts a day, treating 42 patients a week, but questions have been raised whether this is enough to meet demand.
The region’s renal services nurse manager Tina Straker said as the region’s acute referral hospital, with on-site nephrologist support, Tamworth hospital was the only site that could provide treatment for both stable and acute or unstable patients.
“We are exploring clinically appropriate opportunities to maximise resources,” Ms Straker said.
“Patients will also be assessed for suitability to potentially undertake home-based dialysis.”
Having dialysis at home, when appropriate, was shown to give the best quality of life, outcomes and flexibility for patients, she said.
Visitors to Tamworth during the country music festival this year have been advised to travel to Armidale for dialysis because of the recent demand on the service.
The redevelopment of the hospital is expected to improve the clinical environment of the dialysis unit and provide capacity for future expansion of the service.
From March, the unit will be housed in a purpose-built demountable for two-and-a-half years while construction on the redevelopment is underway.
Patients who need to travel for dialysis might be eligible for financial assistance.
People who transport themselves 100km or more one-way for dialysis on an occasional basis, or people who travel a total distance of 200km or more each week, can get help through the Isolated Patients’ Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme.