10/30/2014 21:20 EDT | Updated 12/30/2014 05:59 EST

Montreal patients worried over superhospital's downsized dialysis unit

Montrealers who need dialysis are worried they will have less access to treatment once the Royal Victoria Hospital moves to the new superhospital.

The Royal Victoria Hospital currently has 26 dialysis chairs — which can each treat six patients per day.

Once the move is complete next spring, the new McGill University superhospital will have a dialysis unit with six chairs — and those stations will only be for patients of the hospital.

“They are primarily there for in-patients — patients who are sick, hospitalized and who still require their dialysis treatments. So those six stations will be responding to those needs,” said Dr. Ewa Sidorowicz, the associate director of medical affairs and director of professional services with the MUHC.

The Montreal General Hospital has 23 dialysis stations, which will not be affected by the move. Only parts of the Montreal General will be moving into the new complex.

Sidorowicz says the ministry had announced the dialysis unit at the new MUHC superhospital would be downsized in favour of offering patients dialysis treatments closer to where they live, but now patients and staff are worried it’s been cut back too much.

“The ministry planned on downsizing the dialysis unit in general at the MUHC to allow for patients to be dialysed closer to home, which is not a bad idea, but the extent of that downsize was quite dramatic. We had discussed with the ministry ... to set up a dialysis unit also at Lachine [Hospital],” Sidorowicz told CBC Homerun host Sue Smith.

The Lachine Hospital will have 12 dialysis chairs once construction is complete next year.

For patients like Evelyn Seligman, who lives downtown and undergoes a dialysis treatment three times a week, travelling to the western part of the island will be "a hardship."

“Most patients travel with adapted transit. The wait times are long. It would be a huge burden for patients to have to wait through a four-hour treatment, then wait for transport, then have a long drive from central Montreal. This is more than dialysis patients should ever have to accept or tolerate,” said Seligman.

Ministry denies permission for satellite dialysis clinic

Sidorowicz says a plan was underway to set up a satellite clinic with 15 dialysis stations close to the new superhospital’s Glen site.

Sidorowicz says staff spent months planning and construction was set to begin, until it all fell through .

“A month ago, we were told by the ministry that they would not give us permission to lease the space to set up the satellite unit. The news was shocking to the patients, to the staff and administration of the MUHC. The ministry's plan was to go to final destination right away.”

In a statement, the health ministry told CBC it wants to offer patients a long-term solution.

“The possibility of renting space for the short term was explored but eventually dismissed in favour of a permanent solution, which a commercial lease cannot guarantee,” the statement said.

“We are aware of the patients' worries, but we are confident that a permanent solution will be in place before activities cease at the Royal Victoria Hospital.”