MOULTRIE -- Colquitt Regional Medical Center plans to celebrate the opening of its new 10,593-square-foot Dialysis Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Thursday, July 24.

The center, located adjacent to the hospital at 449 31st Ave. S.E., has already begun treating patients, a hospital spokesman said.

The new center more than doubles the capacity for treating dialysis patients in Colquitt County and the surrounding area.

"Renal Data Services predicts that the number of dialysis patients in the United States will triple by the year 2010. Colquitt Regional Medical Center is taking strides to meet the needs of dialysis patients in our regional area," says Phyllis Bynum, RN, CDN, director of Colquitt Regional Dialysis Center.

When a patient's kidneys stop working, dialysis treatments filter the blood and remove waste and excess fluid from the body.

Hemodialysis is the most common type of treatment performed at the new center. In this process, the patient's blood is allowed to flow, a few ounces at a time, through a machine with a special filter that removes wastes and extra fluids. The clean blood is then returned to the patient's body. Removing the harmful wastes and extra salt and fluids helps control blood pressure and keep the proper balance of chemicals like potassium and sodium in the body. Dialysis patients must undergo this treatment for approximately four hours, three times a week.

In addition to providing hemodialysis, the new Colquitt Regional Dialysis Center has two training stations where the center plans to offer training for home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis in the future. Peritoneal dialysis is the removal of toxic substances through the peritoneal cavity of the abdomen.

Colquitt Regional Dialysis Center has several new features to make its patients more comfortable during dialysis treatments. Each 70-square-foot patient station has a new recliner, a personal telephone, a 19-inch color television with headphones, Internet access for patients who bring their personal laptop and an overhead reading light.

There are 24 of these stations in the new center; its predecessor had only 11.

The new center houses four nurses' stations, where the condition of each dialysis patient is carefully monitored using the most advanced equipment. All patients have a hand-held call system that allows them to easily contact a nurse with the press of a button if they have an immediate need.

Colquitt Regional Dialysis Center has an experienced staff that includes registered nurses with national certifications in nephrology, licensed practical nurses, dialysis technicians, a dietitian specialized in kidney disease and diabetes education, and a licensed clinical social worker who assists patients with financial and social issues.

Physicians who oversee the program are nephrologists Merrill Hicks, M.D., Raul Santos, M.D., and Robert Qualheim, M.D. Another feature of the new Colquitt Regional Dialysis Center is an on-site physicians' office with a separate waiting area and exam rooms where the nephrologists will conveniently treat patients close to home.

Colquitt Regional Medical Center has operated a dialysis center since 1986.

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