Delegates back kidney project

It could be a world-first as BIC conference delegates get behind the Big Red Kidney Bus project

Delegates back kidney project
Delegates back kidney project

By David Goeldner | November 8, 2012

Leading bus operators and suppliers have backed Kidney Health Australia’s Big Red Kidney Bus Project, aimed at providing a mobile dialysis unit for those under constant treatment unable to get away on extended breaks from hospitals.

The Big Red Kidney Bus has quickly gone from concept towards reality following Kidney Health Australia’s involvement at this year’s BIC national conference in Canberra.

Kidney Health Australia’s Jo Fairbairn says Ventura and Grenda Corporation have supported the project, along with Rhonda Renwick from Latrobe Valley Buslines, and the Hoffman family of Express Coach builders at Macksville in northern NSW.

A ‘retired’ Melbourne-based bus will be converted into a mobile kidney dialysis unit by Express, and when the renovation is complete with three dialysis chairs and units, with TV system also donated for the fit out, the Big Red Kidney Bus will return to Victoria and operate from Latrobe Valley.

Renwick’s operation will provide accredited bus drivers and regular on-going servicing of the vehicle.

The Big Red Kidney Bus will be a registered dialysis satellite unit managed by Southern Health in Victoria.

"It’s a world-first," says Kidney Health Australia Community Education Manager Jo Fairbairn.

"We are hoping the bus will be driven to Macksville at the end of November for the renovation."

Fairbairn says the bus will provide kidney dialysis clients with the opportunity to go on extended breaks away from home.

It means those with a kidney condition requiring regular dialysis can now break away from the hospital routine and be serviced by the Big Red Kidney Bus which will be driven to the holiday location.

"Many people can’t go on holiday because they are on a dialysis machine three days a week for five hours a day," Fairbairn says.

When the Big Red Kidney Bus starts operation in 2013, it will be evaluated for 12 months to provide evidence of the need for its replication in every Australian state and territory.

And there could be a bus donation coming from South Australia in 2014.

"It’s pretty exciting," says Fairbairn.


During the BIC conference, Kidney Health Australia provided free kidney risk assessments for delegates, resulting in long queues at the National Convention Centre venue in Canberra.

Among those lining up for assessment was Torrens Transit Operations Manager Reno Balacco – a diabetic who has started a life-changing journey, and now an avid supporter of Kidney Health Australia’s programs.

"Five years ago I was diagnosed with high blood pressure," Balacco says.

"I was put on medication to control my blood pressure, which has been under control for the past five years.

"About two months ago I had a condition in relation to dry mouth and I thought the symptoms were diabetes."

Balacco visited his GP and was soon confirmed as diabetic type 2.

"So I immediately started a diet program to reduce my weight and change my way of life," he says.

"Most of us have bad eating habits. We don’t control our diet or physical well-being.

"I have turned my life around. I have lost 8 kilograms and I feel a lot better."

Balacco says going through the kidney health risk assessment at the BIC conference confirmed the need to continue on.

"I will get there, and beat it," he says.

Balacco says the bus industry needs to be a lot healthier.

"We need to ensure we look after ourselves health-wise," he says.

"We are moving people and we need to be healthy to ensure the safety of our passengers and to get to their destination safely."

The Kidney Health Australia service provided at the BIC conference was an evaluation to determine who was at risk, and who wasn’t at risk.

Kidney Health Australia’s Jo Fairbairn says the response from delegates was overwhelming.

"It was a fantastic reaction – we had 40 people through in one morning," she says.

Fairbairn, herself a scientist, travelled with registered nurse Jo Coenen from Melbourne to the Canberra conference to promote the service to BIC conference delegates, which proved a good move.

"We were invited by the bus industry to give a presentation so I asked if it would be possible to give some free kidney health checks to create awareness in the bus industry," Fairbairn says.

"In hindsight we needed two nurses because the consultation at the end of the assessment is important."

The assessment involved taking weight, height and blood pressure measurements, each placed in an online algorithm which calculated the percentage risk of kidney disease occurring over the next five years.

"I noticed that more people in this industry group smoke than I have experienced," Fairbairn says.

By contrast, Fairbairn was recently at a South Australian farmers’ field day where almost no-one smoked.

Balacco says the program made people more aware of their general well-being.

"It gives people like me a chance to turn your life around and improve your health," he says.

To find our more or to get involved, contact Kidney Health Australia on 1800 4 KIDNEY, or go to

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