Whanganui has fought in vain for years to provide dialysis treatment at its hospital, and news that Levin was to receive three dialysis machines caused outrage among health board members on Friday.

There was palpable upset and annoyance when the Whanganui District Health Board discussed an upcoming centralAlliance plan to put three kidney dialysis machines into the Horowhenua region.

"That could be done right now here in Whanganui for minimal cost," said board member Graham Adams.

"Let me tell you about an 18-year-old youth I met who is unable to hold down a job. Why? Because he travels to Palmerston North three days a week for dialysis.

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"Its been going on for years and some of us, quite frankly, have had relatives who have died," said Dame Tariana Turia.

She told the board that 15 years ago she had a cousin who struggled with making the trip to Palmerston North Hospital for treatment.

"He was constantly writing to me saying why can't we have this service here."

The centralAlliance is a partnership between the Whanganui and the Palmerston-based MidCentral health boards.

Whanganui board member Phillipa Baker-Hogan said the needs of patients in Levin seemed to be coming before those of Whanganui.

"CentralAlliance appear to be addressing Horowhenua and doesn't appear to be addressing us with the same sense of urgency ... this is a partnership."

Dialysis or renal replacement therapy substitutes the function of the kidneys by removing excess water and waste from a patient's blood. Palmerston North Hospital has 15 dialysis machines and Whanganui patients must travel there to receive complex dialysis treatment.

General manager of business and planning Tracey Scheibli said Whanganui Hospital did not have the staff and funding to support a complex dialysis service.

"Where on earth would we get three urologists from? MidCentral are struggling to keep the three they've got," she said.

Dot McKinnon, chairwoman of both the Whanganui and MidCentral boards, said there would be a review of the Levin pilot programme to see if a similar system could be used in Whanganui.

"I'm keen to see how it works and how much it costs to see if there is any application here."

Whanganui chief executive Julie Patterson said the kidney treatment model in Palmerston hospital was flawed and needed to be improved before it could be brought to Whanganui.

"There are a few brutal facts here - we have been fighting against an inappropriate model at MidCentral for years.

"We have to get the model fixed because there is no point doing this and then having MidCentral clinicians saying we're not going to support it."

However, Judith MacDonald felt the need for the service outweighed possible problems within the model.

"At the end of the day, when a patient comes into ED they still have to be carted off in an ambulance to be dialysed in Palmerston North," she said.

"From a human right perspective, we at least need to do something about that. Analysis has been done to death, and I'm anxious we are going to get another annual planning period go by without allocating funding to this. We should have the capability to at least offer something."