People living with kidney disease on the North and Central Island now have integrated, specialized care closer to home.

This is thanks to a new kidney care clinic at North Island Hospital in Campbell River.

The clinic, funded by BC Renal and operated by Island Health, officially opened on Jan. 6.

It supports people living with kidney disease but who don’t require dialysis or post-transplant care.

North Island MLA Claire Trevena said that with March being National Kidney Month, it’s a good time to focus on excellent work being done to support kidney health.

“We do have a lot of people who depend on the healthcare system, but due to the work that goes into our healthcare system, we are fortunate the number of patients on dialysis has dropped significantly in recent years, there’s been early treatment, and education has slowed the progress,” she said.

Trevena said that while one in 10 British Columbians are affected by kidney disease, this province is one of the only places in North America that offers a fully coordinated system of renal care for kidney patients.

She said that’s important because kidney disease is “life changing.”

“There were nearly 20,000 people diagnosed with kidney disease in B.C. a year ago, almost two-and-a-half thousand of those are on facility-based dialysis and more than 1,000 on home-based dialysis.”

Trevena called it “a great day for the North Island.”

“(That’s) because we are celebrating the opening of the newest kidney care clinic here at the Wellness Centre,” she said. “It means we are one of three kidney care clinics on the island. These clinics are designed to keep islanders healthy, living and working and playing and being normal people with the disease.”

Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams said the clinic’s impact will be far-reaching.

He said it’s a great addition “for not only Campbell Riverites, but all the way up to the north end of the island and West Coast.”

In the past, People living on the North and Central Island had to go to Nanaimo to see a kidney specialist, or wait for travelling care teams to visit Campbell River or the Comox Valley. 

Now they have access to a new kidney care team that includes nurses, a dietitian, social worker and pharmacy technician.

Island Health manager of Renal Services, Teresa Backx, said the goals of the clinic are to provide information and support for people with advanced or quickly progressing kidney disease. 

“The clinic promotes patients being involved in their care and has an emphasis on self-management. Patient visits don’t always need to include a nephrologist, but they can work with the rest of our care team to slow progression of their illness or prepare them for treatment options if required,” Backx said.

“This clinic will deliver care closer to home, which is really important. Once they begin receiving care, patients want to visit the clinics. Making it easier for patients in this region to access a kidney care clinic is a real benefit to them and their families.”

BC Renal executive director Dr. Adeera Levin said research “clearly shows” that early identification and treatment can slow or even stop progression of kidney disease through changes to lifestyle and diet, as well as medications. 

“The more involved a person is in his or her own care, the better the results,” she added.

The clinic, located in the hospital’s wellness centre, operates from Monday to Friday. Kidney specialists, called nephrologists, will visit weekly.

The Campbell River kidney care clinic, which is the third such clinic in Island Health, provides patients with expert education, counselling and support with things like diet, medication and other important factors that influence overall health and disease progression. Approximately 250 patients benefited when their care was moved to the new clinic. Future patients will be referred by their nephrologist.

Visiting clinics, with travelling practitioners from Nanaimo, will continue to be held in the Comox Valley.

For information about Kidney Health Month and BC Renal, click here.