Yukoners deserve dialysis treatment

I am writing to expand on points I made in a brief interview with CBC Radio on Monday concerning the absence of kidney dialysis in Yukon. The lack of dialysis has far-ranging implications for the health and well-being of everyone living with acute kidney failure.


by Michael Gladish

I am writing to expand on points I made in a brief interview with CBC Radio on Monday concerning the absence of kidney dialysis in Yukon. The lack of dialysis has far-ranging implications for the health and well-being of everyone living with acute kidney failure. For patients not fortunate to receive a donor organ, kidney dialysis is not only a treatment, but life support.

The only treatment readily available in Yukon is peritoneal dialysis (PD). The other treatment type, hemodialysis, is not available.

Patients on PD are able to undertake their treatment without direct support, as they can perform the treatment on their own and are able do it anywhere. However, if they experience problems, specialized care is unavailable in Yukon.

Specialized care becomes particularly problematic for patients for whom PD is not a viable treatment and who require hemodialysis. That requires a facility equipped with dialysis machines, specialized nurses and technicians to support the dialysis treatment

Some physicians tell patients their only choice is to move out of Yukon as dialysis is not available here. If Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services condone this, they abrogate their responsibility to provide appropriate and caring treatment for patients. It could be perceived as relinquishing treatment and costs to another jurisdiction and a failure to acknowledge a shortcoming in our health care. It’s essentially sweeping the problem under the carpet.

Accessibility to appropriate dialysis treatment close to the patient residence can have a positive impact on treatment outcome and quality of life. Relocation places added emotional and economic stress at a time when patients are most vulnerable. The lack of dialysis is a deficiency in the present Yukon health-care system that needs serious consideration. There are good reasons to address this concern with a degree of urgency.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada publication “Facing Facts 2013” states that of new kidney failure patients, 53 per cent are people over the age of 65. More and more Yukon residents are retiring and choosing to remain in Yukon. So, for this group, kidney failure and accessible treatment can be a major concern.

People with limited income – among them retirees – may be unable to afford the cost of moving, or the cost of housing in larger centres. So, when forced to relocate, they can become marginalized.

Diabetes is on the increase, particularly among aboriginal peoples. It is one of the leading causes of kidney disease and accounts for 35 per cent of cases. Yukon has a large and growing aboriginal population.

PD patients who experience a failure of the peritoneum would no longer be able continue PD. Inevitably they would become dependent on hemodialysis for their treatment.

It would be unfair to uproot people from the community in which they have spent all their lives – causing them to lose the support of family and friends, sell their home, and even give up their jobs – just because they have a disease. Some might easily construe this act, however unintended, as discrimination.

I believe that it is incumbent on Health and Social Services to address the issue of accessibility to dialysis treatment before it becomes a crisis.

Why is there no dialysis unit in the Yukon while the Northwest Territories has three? The British Columbia Renal program provides kidney care and treatment to Yukon. So it may be a decision of the B.C. renal program not to offer dialysis and not one of Yukon Health and Social Services. It may also be that dialysis has not been of urgent concern to Yukon Health.

Establishing and operating a dialysis clinic need not be all that expensive. Yukon will soon have three hospitals into which a small dialysis unit could be incorporated. Each could be initially equipped with one dialysis machine and given the capacity to add more as demand increases. Nurses are already employed by the hospitals. Some nurses could be offered the opportunity for dialysis training, thus ensuring the necessary specialized support for a dialysis unit.

In conclusion, access to dialysis treatment will become more important to Yukon health care in the near future. An aging population, increasing incidents of diabetic-related kidney disease and the predominance of PD patients with potential peritoneum failure will inevitably result in more patients needing dialysis.

Yukon Health and Social Services and our government leaders must dedicate the resources necessary to investigate how this lack of dialysis capacity will affect kidney patient treatment and quality of life. Hopefully our government will acknowledge my remarks in a positive vein and move to correct a serious deficiency and create a first-class health-care system, one in which we can be proud.

Michael Gladish lives in Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Eric Schroff, executive director with the Yukon Fish and Game Association, poses for a portrait on Feb. 20. Schroff says he is puzzled as to why the Yukon government is cutting back on funding for the association. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
YG cuts Yukon Fish and Game Association funding, tried to vet outgoing communications

Yukon Fish and Game Association says 25 per cent government funding cut will impact operations


Wyatt’s World for Nov. 27, 2020

Premier Sandy Silver during a live update on the COVID-19 situation at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 27. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Total Yukon COVID case count increased to 42 cases

Premier urges patience after national meeting on vaccine roll-out

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Most Read