An ever-increasing waiting list at the dialysis unit at Northern Montana Hospital convinced the hospital board of trustees to expand it from eight patients a day to 14 patients a day, hopefully beginning in early 2003.
The unit will move from the hospital's fifth floor to the south end of the fourth, and will include two new dialysis machines, bringing the hospital's total to five. The expansion will include a new family waiting area.
"I think it's great," said Thomas Rosenbaum, a Great Falls nephrologist who has been the unit's medical director since the NMH dialysis unit opened in October of 1995. "For quite some time now, there have been a number of people who have had to travel to Great Falls or Billings because there wasn't enough space here. Patients could wait as long as two to eight months or even longer, if they survive to get a place in Havre."
Dialysis unit director Thora Beck said the community's needs have increased since she became manager in 1998.
"We have a very high incidence of diabetes in this area, and the advancement of the disease of diabetes often takes its toll on a person's kidneys. Right now, we have a waiting list of six patients."
Rosenbaum said the unit's decision to provide additional room for future expansion was a smart move.
Work on the fourth floor is expected to start as soon as the Montana Department of Health and Human Services has approved preliminary architectural plans, according to a press release from the hospital.
The expansion will cost about $486,000 for construction and equipment. The Northern Montana Health Care Foundation has made the unit expansion the beneficiary of its fund-raising efforts for the 2002-2003 year.