To provide better dialysis care to rural communities, the Ministry of Health chose to build satellite haemodialysis (HD) units, which are affiliated with, but are distant to, a main renal centre. This study considered whether constructing such units in rural regions of Ontario, Canada, alleviated under-service of rates of renal replacement therapy (RRT) locally, decreased patient travel distance and decreased local peritoneal dialysis (PD) utilization.
Investigators compared two groups of rural regions at two time points (years 1995 and 2002) in a before and after cross-sectional study. These regions were either already serviced by a satellite unit in 1995 (control group, 10 communities), or had new satellite units built between the years 1995 and 2002 (exposure group, 24 communities).
The exposure group had a slightly greater increase in prevalent rate of RRT over time, but this did not reach statistical significance (control group increased 401 per million, exposure group 436 per million, P = 0.8). The mean weekly travel distance was reduced by 210.6 km after the construction of new satellite units (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference between the groups in reduction of PD proportion (P = 0.4). There was a significant increase in the number of elderly receiving RRT once local access was provided.
In conclusion, constructing satellite units increased access to renal care for elderly patients and reduced travel time for HD patients living in rural communities.