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Monday, January 30, 2023



Oct. 3, 2001 – Although the Legislature has appropriated some $350,000 to set up a kidney dialysis unit at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, members of the facility's advisory committee questioned on Wednesday whether the project is feasible.
Erica McDonald, health center administrator, told the committee at its regular monthly meeting that $150,000 was appropriated in a supplemental budget bill in the final weeks of Fiscal Year 2001. Then, she said, she read in a newspaper that the Senate had appropriated an additional $200,000 in the Fiscal Year 2002 budget it passed last week.
She said no one from the Senate contacted her to ask if the health center needed the equipment.
McDonald said it would cost $500,000 to set up a dialysis unit. She could not estimate how much it would cost annually to keep it running. "There has to be money dedicated to making it happen every day for the rest of the life of the facility. We're not doing this halfway," she said.
According to McDonald, the center would have to hire a nephrologist (a physician who specializes in kidney disease) and look at issues such as water quality, staff training, the number of patients to be served and transportation needs. She said she was not willing to open a dialysis unit if it would take money away from other services at Myrah Keating Smith.
The advisory committee voted to ask the chief executive officer at Roy L. Schneider Hospital, which has oversight for the St. John center, to determine the feasibility of such an undertaking before any work begins.
"St. Johnians need dialysis, but the issue is where are they going to get it from — St. John or St. Thomas?" advisory committee member Jose Penn said.
Currently, they must go to Schneider Hospital for treatment, a trip that most patients find tiring. The advisory committee in the past has proposed that all of the dialysis patients be transported at one time to Schneider Hospital in a vehicle provided by the health center. But McDonald said the patients indicated they preferred to make the trip at their own convenience, rather than as a group.
After the meeting, McDonald allowed that such a sum of money as the Legislature has appropriated could be used to address the needs of more people than just the four to six St. John residents who are on dialysis. "Their struggle is real," she said, "but can we take this on?"

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