Some veterans are now on DIY kidney dialysis at the Pittsburgh VA

Julia LeDoux
June 24, 2020 - 3:49 pm

Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System community living center can now do their own kidney dialysis.

And, because they don’t need to leave the community living center, veterans in long-term care there don’t risk potential exposure to COVID-19 by traveling across town to the VA dialysis center, according to a VA blog post.

The dialysis machines the veterans use 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, a dialysis nurse manager.

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“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," she said.

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

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

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The new dialysis units are more convenient for veterans, especially in winter, since they can 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 175 medical centers nationwide. Plans have been sent to at least one other VA medical center so it can develop a similar solution for its patients.

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