Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for 66,000 Californians with kidney failure. However patient care is declining.
Last Wednesday, 75 dialysis patients and allies rallied at DaVita Alameda County Dialysis in Oakland to highlight clinic deficiencies and urge state lawmakers to support SB 349, The Dialysis Patient Act. Introduced by State Senator Ricardo Lara, SB 349 seeks to improve patient care, safety and staffing at 570 dialysis clinics in California
“Passing this bill is a matter of life or death for dialysis patients,” said Banbury Holmes, a dialysis patient from Oakland. Holmes, who stopped going to dialysis clinics for treatment after he suffered severe bleeding, now does dialysis at home. “Even with home dialysis, I’m not 100 percent safe, but I would rather be in control than be at the mercy of a corporation that doesn’t care about me.”
“When caregivers have too many patients and not enough time, our safety is on the line,” he added.
DaVita Alameda County Dialysis recorded 26 deficiencies during its 2017 inspection, according to the California Department of Public Health. The infractions included: failure to ensure the clinic was clean and sanitary for 114 patients; failure to ensure the clinic was maintained to ensure the safety of the patients and staff; failure to maintain fully equipped, well- maintained emergency carts and evacuation kits; failure to conduct audits that ensure medications were securely stored and unavailable to unauthorized people; and, failure to ensure patients’ eyes were visible to staff throughout dialysis treatments.
In May, SB 349 passed through the Senate and awaits a Sept. 15th floor vote in the California Assembly. If passed, the bill would mandate safer staffing levels, require annual inspections of clinics, whereas they are now inspected an average of every five to six years. It would also allow more time for patients to recover after treatment and increase equipment sanitation responsibilities for staff.
DaVita and Fresenius, the two largest dialysis corporations, made a combined $3.9 billion in profits from their dialysis in the United States in 2016 and are fiercely opposing the legislation, claiming the bill would increase staffing costs and reduce dialysis patients’ access to care.
For more information, visit SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) website at www.seiu-uhw.