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The Tech Behind the Treatment

March is Kidney Health Month and we highlight the dialysis technologists that keep our machines and equipment working.

As the rates of kidney disease grow in Manitoba, Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) has continued to increase its kidney health-care capacity to meet growing needs. Between 2016 and 2021, PMH’s in-centre hemodialysis patient population grew by 42 percent.

Today there are more than 200 people receiving life-sustaining hemodialysis treatments across four locations in the region: the Brandon Regional Health Centre, the Dauphin Regional Health Centre, the Russell Health Centre, and the Swan Valley Health Centre. Another 249 people are receiving treatment for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) through the BRHC’s Kidney Health Clinic. In addition to this, more individuals in the region do their own treatments at home using home peritoneal dialysis or home hemodialysis.

Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for people who have lost their kidney function. Behind that life-saving treatment is a ton of technology. From dialysis machines and water treatment, to replacement parts and diagnostic tools - equipment is a key component in units and patients’ homes across Manitoba.

Both in-centre hemodialysis and home hemodialysis use a machine that pulls blood from a person’s body, cleans it, and returns the clean blood to the body. In hospital, this is done three times a week for about four hours. This means PMH’s four centres, and their hemodialysis health-care teams, are facilitating about 600 in-centre hemodialysis treatments every week which amounts to 2,400 hours of treatment.

Dialysis technologists are the people deploying, installing, maintaining, and servicing that equipment. Technologists at the BRHC service the centre’s dialysis machines and equipment while the Manitoba Renal Program (MRP) services equipment in the Russell, Swan River and Dauphin dialysis units.

When a patient’s home dialysis machine needs urgent repairs or a unit’s reverse osmosis (RO) system is failing, technologists quickly mobilize to get repairs done. It is vital to get equipment up and running as fast as possible, to ensure patients continue getting the life-saving treatment they need.

“A lot of our true emergencies are related to the water treatment systems. Something happens to the central RO system in centres that warrants us to have to go out there right away,” explains Doug Franklin, manager of technology for the Manitoba Renal Program. Newer technology installed in recent years allows dialysis technologists to remote analyze water system issues and rapidly develop a repair action plan. Whether it’s initiating a temporary bypass or getting on site, the goal is to minimize any downtown and disruption to the dialysis unit.

When it is time to introduce a new piece of equipment to several units, that undertaking can be a large project.

 “We have a provincial standard for dialysis equipment so that all sites use the same piece of equipment,” says Franklin. Franklin says patient safety is always at the forefront. He says having standardized equipment at all the sites ensures safe, consistent operation and repair.

“We try our best to pick the best machine and the most reliable machine – it actually helps us to reduce the amount of calls or problems we have with them,” he explains.

Unfortunately, Manitoba continues to have the highest rates of chronic kidney disease across Canada and the need for dialysis will continue. March is Kidney Health Month in Canada. To learn more about kidney disease in Manitoba visit www.knowyourkidneys.ca.

Dialysis machine r