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Patients cut off from dialysis treatments being flown to Abbotsford for medical care

With highway access cut off, Rob Irving and more than 20 others are in a tough spot
Chilliwack residents Gail and Rob Irving are puzzled why there isn’t a renal unit in the city, and with flooding cutting off Highway 1 access between Chilliwack and Abbotsford, Rob was flown west for treatment on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (Eric J. Welsh/Chilliwack Progress)

“You can reschedule a doctor’s appointment, but you can’t miss dialysis. That’s a life-saving thing.”

Gail Irving says this moments after getting home from driving Rob to the airport. Around 11:15 a.,. Wednesday morning (Nov. 17) she got a call asking that Rob be there by noon. The 79-year-old is getting flown from Chilliwack to Abbotsford to get dialysis, and he’s not alone.

“He just phoned me from the airport and told me there are more than 20 patients, just from Chilliwack alone, waiting for a plane,” Gail said. “It was a bit of a rush to get him there.”

Not more than a month ago, she talked to The Progress about the lack of a renal unit in Chilliwack, wondering why it was that people from a city of near 100,000 people had to drive to Abbotsford for treatment.

With flooding now cutting off the two cities from each other, Rob hasn’t had a dialysis treatment since Saturday. Normally he gets treatment every two days. Four days removed from his last treatment, Rob needed medication Wednesday to keep his potassium levels under control and Gail admitted to feeling a lot of stress.

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“So far he seems to be doing OK. He’s not sick or anything,” she said. “But I keep thinking about how I’m not doing dialysis for him at him at home, and I feel guilty. But I also think this is a clear indication of what we need here in Chilliwack, because this wouldn’t even be an issue if we had a renal unit.

“I was so disappointed when Fraser Health said they had no plans to do it at this point, and then we reach a crisis like this.”

Rob is going to have to stay in Abbotsford until Highway 1 re-opens.

“At least he’s going to get the help he needs, and that’s the most important thing,” Gail said. “As soon as that road opens up, we can pick him up and take him back and forth. I’d like to be there with him, but for right now I don’t see taking a seat on a plane to go stay in a hotel room.”

Contacted by The Progress, Fraser Health’s Curtis Harling had the following response.

“Fraser Health is assisting a small number of Chilliwack residents who require access to dialysis services at the Abbotsford Community Dialysis Unit or Abbotsford Regional Hospital. We are coordinating air transportation and accommodations, if necessary, for these individuals. Our priority is to ensure patients with chronic kidney disease who require access to hospital or community-based dialysis services are taken care of and their needs met during this time. This is an ongoing situation, however, and contingency plans are in place to ensure safe patient care should there be any disruptions to care delivery.”


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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