Warrnambool welcomes the Big Red Kidney Bus

Choosing a holiday destination for most friendship groups relies on decisions based around weather, amenities and onsite activities.

For Wongthaggi resident Helen Williams and her friends, the decision is made depending on the current location of a big red bus.

Bus break: Wongthaggi Kidney dialysis patient Helen Williams and her husband Willy are joining friemnds on a seaside holiday in Warrnambool thanks to the Big Red Kidney Bus. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Bus break: Wongthaggi Kidney dialysis patient Helen Williams and her husband Willy are joining friemnds on a seaside holiday in Warrnambool thanks to the Big Red Kidney Bus. Picture: Rob Gunstone

The Big Red Kidney Bus is a Kidney Health Australia award-winning program providing those who require haemodialysis the chance to have a holiday whilst still receiving treatment. 

It is currently parked at Warrnambool’s Big 4 Holiday Park in Jubilee Park.

For 71 year-old Mrs Williams, the travelling medical facility is a chance to holiday with fellow retirees.

“It’s a joy to be able to go on holidays again,” she said.

“In fact my friends now say ‘where’s the bus going, where are we going next?’”

It's a joy to be able to go on holidays. My friends say "where's the bus going, where are we going next?"

Helen Williams

Mrs Williams has been having kidney dialysis for 14 years.

“I plug myself in to my machine at home for six hours every other day,” she said. “It’s usually 3.30pm to 10.30pm and I’ve been doing it for years.

“Now when we go away with four other couples every year, I just disappear for a few hours and we all meet up afterward.

“It’s such a brilliant concept.”

Mrs Williams said prior to the launch of the bus in 2014, patients undergoing dialysis had no option to travel during dialysis.

“You could ask a local hospital but often they had to cancel because of managed bookings,” she said. “So this is far more reliable.

Dialysis nurses and a renal technician employed to care for patients on board during their treatment are supplied by Monash Health.

“They are just angels,” Mrs Williams said. “Treatment can be scary and you get used to your own nurses but these girls are just amazing.”

Kidney dialysis is open to all Australians on haemodialysis in hospital, satellite unit or on home haemodialysis.

The bus contains three dialysis chairs for six to 12 people each week. 

The Big Red Kidney Bus is located in holiday parks at popular Victorian holiday destinations for around six weeks at a time.

The destination of the bus originates from suggestions from kidney patient community feedback and the suitability of critical elements such as water quality, electricity supply and accessibility to larger medical hubs.