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Pediatric care keeps kids closer to home

Posted on 01/04/2009 12:00am

By Jenn Marshall - Nanaimo News Bulletin

Keyton Walker's life is about to get a lot less stressful.

When the 13-year-old Nanaimo teen was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two years ago, he had to spend a week at Victoria General Hospital. Once he was stabilized, Keyton was able to get the services he needed to manage his disease at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, but it meant spending a lot of time shuffling around to different wards to see his doctor, a diabetic nurse, a nutritionist and a specialist doctor.

"Usually I'd just be, like, all over the place," said Keyton. "It was pretty stressful."

Keyton and other children from the central and northern Island regions can now access specialized pediatric care closer to home with the opening of the new Paediatric Ambulatory Health Clinic at NRGH.

The new, $1.9-million clinic will ease the financial burden for many Nanaimo families who must commute to Victoria or Vancouver for appointments with specialist doctors, said Keyton's mom, Feron.

She said the clinic will also provide her with the information and support she needs to care for her son.

"It's life or death or us," said Feron.

More than 2,500 Island children make about 6,500 trips to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver each year. Health officials expect about 1,645 visits to the clinic in 2009/10.

Dr. Wilma Arruda, medical director for pediatric programs with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, said the clinic will provide several specialized diagnostic and treatment programs for children and youth that families previously had to travel elsewhere for, such as endocrinology (diabetes), gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiology and neurology services. Specialists will travel from Vancouver and Victoria to attend to patients.

"Mostly it will help [patients] feel better about themselves," she said. "The stress of travel is often quite significant, especially for children with a chronic illness."

Arruda said many of her patients and their families have to take lots of time off work and school, pay the costs of a ferry trip and often a hotel room for every half-hour appointment with a Vancouver specialist.

The clinic, adjacent to the hospital's pediatric inpatient ward, contains five cubicles, three examination rooms, patient and family waiting room areas and a conference room.

It was funded by Child Health B.C., an initiative of the B.C. Children's Hospital. Child Health B.C. was able to provide the $1.9 million in renovations to create the clinic due to a $20-million pledge from the Overwaitea Food Group.

VIHA will provide operating funding for the clinic.