BHB Highlights Physicians and Services at KEMH Dialysis Unit

Unit Treats Approximately 80 Patients Every Week

Dr. Wendy Outerbridge is a young, bright, enthusiastic Bermudian doctor who is passionate about her work. Director of the Dr. Beresford Swan dialysis unit at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, she specialized in internal medicine with a concentration in kidney disease before returning to Bermuda in 2003.

Working with a static population is one of the main reasons she choose this field of study. “Building relationships with patients and their families makes my job meaningful,” Dr. Outerbridge said. “I see the same patients weekly. I get to meet their children and grandchildren. I know when their spirits are down and how to offer a word of encouragement to cheer them up.” This opportunity to know and follow the same patients attracted Dr. Outerbridge to study dialysis.

“During my medical studies, I needed to undertake an 8 week rotation. I wanted to do this in Bermuda and Dr. Swan invited me to consider the dialysis unit,” she said. “Because dialysis patients are seen at the unit at least three times each week, 52 weeks every year, it is essential that patients work with a physician who remains in Bermuda. Dr. Swan knew how important it was to encourage Bermudian physicians to work with dialysis patients,” said Dr. Outerbridge. “I see how much our patients appreciate knowing I am not going anywhere.”

There are approximately 80 patients who are treated at the unit each week. This number has increased over the years. In 2004, the unit provided 14,129 hemodialysis treatments, a life-sustaining therapy that removes impurities from the blood. Served by a dedicated team of 15 nurses and five support staff in a caring and warm environment, patients spend three or four hours at the unit during each session.

“We are better at diagnosing patients earlier and offering them treatment before they reach end-stage renal failure,” said Dr. Outerbridge. “In the past, many people went without care and simply passed away from kidney disease. Better medical care for all Bermudians has resulted in more patients receiving the benefits of dialysis,” she said.

Bermuda has a high incidence of diabetes and hypertension, both of which may lead to kidney disease. While these conditions are often hereditary, they are also the result of a worldwide trend toward eating more processed foods high in fat and sugar. In most cases, once a patient goes on to dialysis, he or she remains on it. Transplantation is another option but only one or two Bermudians receive donated kidneys each year. For Bermudians with kidney disease, the dialysis unit is the only facility on the island providing life-saving treatment.

Dr. Lynette Thomas is a Bermudian physician who also studied dialysis and kidney disease as part of her training in internal medicine. She works closely with Dr. Outerbridge to provide treatment for patients at the dialysis unit. She serves as Director for the Vascular Access Management Programme (VAMP), a vital component of dialysis. Most patients receiving treatment undergo a surgical procedure to create an access for hemodialysis. “We are very fortunate that a leading specialist from the USA now consults with us for dialysis access,” notes Dr. Thomas.

Dr. Donna Mendes, the first African-American female vascular surgeon certified by the American Board of Surgery, has been making monthly visits to the island since the spring of this year. She serves as chief of vascular surgery at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and is an assistant clinical professor of surgery at Colombia University.

Dr. Mendes consults with Dr. Outerbridge and Dr. Thomas, ensuring patients have proper access for dialysis. “We believe that fistula formation (performing a link between the patient’s own artery and vein) is the safest and most reliable option,” explains Dr. Mendes. “We are limiting the use of all catheter and material grafts. It is essential for dialysis patients that safe access is created and maintained for treatment,” she adds.

The Dialysis Unit also has close ties with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where patients go for transplantation, urgently needed vascular surgery or renal biopsy. KEMH’s affiliation with this world-class centre benefits patients who require this type of specialized care.

In an effort to make clients as comfortable as possible, individual television sets are located at all 16 patient stations in the Dialysis Unit. Hot drinks are also provided and birthdays are always celebrated. An education programme is in place for clients just entering treatment.

For further information about the dialysis unit, visit our web site at www.bermudahospitals.bm or call 239-2028.

(Pictured below: Dr. Wendy Outerbridge, Dr. Donna Mendes and Ms. Jill Caines, Clinical Coordinator for the Dialysis Unit attend to a patient)

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