So we’re big enough to get a Super Wal-Mart, but Chilliwack is apparently NOT big enough to have it’s own hemodialysis unit. Other communties which are smaller than ours have one. Even a Carnival Cruise Ship has one, so the question is, why is a city with 80,000 people lacking? Elaina Wugalter started up a facebook group called “We Want a Dialysis Unit in Chilliwack” after her husband Morris had difficulty getting to Abbotsford for treatment during the big snow storm this month. As it turns out, there are 33 people in Chilliwack alone that have to make the trek every week, on average 3 times per week. Wugalter decided something needed to be done, and now not only does the group have approx. 100 members, but NDP leader Adrian Dix showed up at Decades Coffee House on Monday to chat with the group and listen to their concerns, hopefully to raise the profile of the issue. “We are not a political group” says Wugalter, “but we realize that it takes someone to help us make this happen, and we’re grateful he showed up here today”. She says members of the other parties, including MLA John Les, were invited.
Local Paramedic Chris Buckner says people have to get to their treatments, and when a storm comes up like it did this month, the ambulance has to be called, which leads to increased costs and man hours. “You can’t say we don’t have a need in this community, if we can populate 80 man hours a day for hemodialysis”. “That’s just in Chilliwack, and doesn’t include people from Hope and Agassiz and Harrison who need treatment”. He says having a unit locally would cut down transit time from 90-120 minutes a day to more like 30.
NDP Health Critic Mike Farnworth was also on hand for the meeting. He says advocacy is the first step to moving this cause forward. “We’re coming up on budget time this spring…we’re spending 40% of our provincial budget on health care, and service in Chilliwack should be one of those priorities that needs to be met. The government can do that by ensuring there is more money there for dialysis.” Chilliwack MLA John Les has said that their dialysis program is already costing them $141 million annually, and the money to add to it is just not there, but Dix isn’t buying that argument, citing Liberal ad campaigns ranging in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the half a billion dollar renos at BC Place as proof that the money (could) be there.
Wugalter says she is hoping to continue building awareness in the community, and will petition in support of the cause. “We’re taking this all the way…and I’m not letting this go.”