Regina dialysis unit closed again
REGINA — The hemodialysis unit at the Regina General Hospital has closed for a second time in two months because of an intermittent noxious odour.
The unit closed on Oct. 20 and treatments are being done in other locations at the hospital.
An ammonia/sewer-like odour was first identified on the dialysis unit in July. That month, staff and patients started reporting symptoms such as burning, itchy eyes, sore throats and a metallic taste. A number of steps were taken to eradicate the odour before a decision was made to close the unit on Sept. 9.
Treatments from Sept. 9 to Sept. 25 were relocated to four other areas at the General Hospital and the hemodialysis unit was closed while the unit’s cast iron plumbing was replaced with PVC plumbing. The unit reopened on Sept. 26, but the odour re-emerged shortly afterwards.
When the Leader-Post contacted the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR) on Monday for an update about the recurring problem, the region provided only factual responses in writing to ensure it did not violate provisions of the Elections Act during the election period.
The region noted that in September, when the unit was first closed, a number of appointments were rescheduled, or reduced in frequency or length, after consultation with nephrologists. That is not the case this time.
There have been no changes to the number or length of patients’ treatments, and all dialysis patients currently continue to receive their routine course of dialysis treatments.
The region noted that over the period of time the odour has been intermittently present, symptoms have been experienced by the unit’s employees including nursing staff, support staff and technical staff.
Currently, two of the unit’s staff are away ill.
Some nurses have reported respiratory problems and generally feeling poor, Rosalee Longmoore, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, said in an interview Monday.
She said it’s difficult to estimate how many nurses have been ill since the problem began.
“Some have had symptoms, but haven’t necessarily missed any work,” Longmoore said. “Everybody in the unit has been impacted to some degree ... From my conversation with the local president, she felt that the region was trying everything they could to expedite the process.”
To solve the problem, the region is getting expertise from the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, occupational medicine, occupational hygiene, an environmental chemist, plumbing and water system experts, hemodialysis machine manufacturers and suppliers, engineers and environmental specialists.
They have not yet determined what is causing the odour.
More than 100 patients receive dialysis treatments each day, Monday to Saturday.