The multibillion dollar dialysis industry is trying hard to hide the facts about the treatment patients like me need to survive. (“Senate bill will harm dialysis patients,” Valley Voices, Aug. 6). It’s the industry’s inadequate staffing, pushing too many patients too fast through clinics, and record of unsanitary conditions that hurt patients. That’s why I’m asking legislators to pass SB 349, the Dialysis Patient Safety Act.
When a fellow patient at my Fresno clinic died and I saw the staff cover his body with a sheet, I was scared that I could be next. My worst fears nearly came true earlier this year when I was in the dialysis clinic lobby waiting for my ride home one evening. After an exhausting four hours of dialysis, my blood pressure was very low, and I suddenly felt weak.
I looked around for help, but the lobby is unstaffed after 4 p.m. Then I blacked out.
I’m afraid to know what might have happened if a nurse hadn’t come into the lobby to see if more patients were waiting, or if I hadn’t been buckled into my wheelchair - which kept me from falling and hitting my head.
SB 349 would improve patient safety for the 66,000 Californians who depend on dialysis. We typically spend three to four hours, three days a week being treated by dialysis clinics that operate with little oversight and no staffing standards. It’s common for a single staff member to oversee as many as 12 patients at the same time.
The bill would bring California in line with eight other states that require safer staffing levels to improve patient care and reduce the chance of medical emergencies. It also requires annual inspections of dialysis clinics, which now face safety checks on average only every five to six years.
Another big improvement for patient safety in SB 349 is a 45-minute transition between patients. This period will allow patients to safely recover from their treatment and give staff time to properly sanitize the equipment that filters patients’ blood. Infections are currently the second-leading cause of death for dialysis patients.
The dialysis industry is trying to strike fear in patients in Valley communities and across the state. They say safer staffing costs too much and will force clinics to reduce hours or close. Neither is true. Just look at the enormous profits of the dialysis industry, and you’ll know they’re trying to pull one over on people. The two largest dialysis corporations, DaVita and Fresenius, raked in a combined $3.9 billion in profits from their dialysis operations in the United States last year. They have the money to improve patient care.
I know I will have to stay on dialysis for the rest of my life, but my kids shouldn’t have to worry about whether I’ll come home after every treatment. Legislators need to pass SB 349 to hold the dialysis industry accountable and keep patients safe.
Irene Botello is a dialysis patient who lives in Fresno.