Veterans in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System community living center (CLC) can now do their own kidney dialysis. Because they don’t need to leave the CLC, they don’t risk potential exposure to COVID-19.

The new program eliminates the need for Veterans in long-term care at the CLC to travel across town to the Pittsburgh VA dialysis center during the pandemic.

In the picture above, a dialysis machine is ready for a Veteran patient.

Dialysis machines that are specifically designed

The machines chosen are specifically designed for disasters and home use. They’re easy and safe for patients to use without clinical help, according to Marlene Van Buskirk, dialysis nurse manager.

“We did this for patient safety. There shouldn’t be any reason Veterans have to go out for dialysis, especially with the statewide stay-at-home order.”

Seven patients received dialysis on the first day of operation in April and the program has since expanded to nine patients. Depending on each Veteran’s needs, some patients dialyze in their rooms and others in designated areas.

Same level of care

Patients receive the same level of care they would receive in the main unit. VA Pittsburgh kidney specialists visit in person once a week and are available daily through telehealth.

The new dialysis units are more convenient for Veterans, especially in winter. They save on transportation costs, said Van Buskirk. She noted that when VA drivers are not available, the cost for non-VA transportation services is $1,000 per round trip.

The dialysis program is the first of its kind among VA’s 170 medical centers nationwide. Plans have been sent to another VA medical center so it can develop a similar solution for its own patients.

Hope Nelson is a public affairs specialist with the VA Pittsburgh HCS Public Affairs Office. Dana Urian is the VA Pittsburgh nurse manager for dialysis.

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