[June 29, 2017] LOS ANGELES – California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and five other state legislators recently urged dialysis corporation DaVita to stop retaliating against employees who support forming a union in their workplace and a bill to improve patient care, after nearly two dozen workers were fired or disciplined for their advocacy efforts since October 2016.
“DaVita’s retaliatory behavior is creating a hostile work environment for employees and is detracting from your mission to provide great care for dialysis patients,” Rendon wrote in his June 20 letter to DaVita CEO Kent Thiry. “I urge DaVita management to respect workers’ right to advocate for their patients an unionize with SEIU-UHW.”
In addition, five other legislators sent a similar letter June 28 to DaVita executives in California. They noted that the five workers terminated for their involvement had an average tenure of 14 years with the company. Signers included Sens. Connie Leyva, Josh Newman, Steven Bradford and Cathleen Galgiani and Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer. All of them are co-authors of SB 349, the Dialysis Patient Safety Act, which seeks to improve patient care, safety and staffing at 572 dialysis clinics in California.
SB 349 passed the California Senate last month and passed the California Assembly’s Health Committee June 27 on a bipartisan basis. It now awaits a vote by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Dialysis workers in California have been trying to join SEIU-UHW since last year, and have been met with fierce resistance by their employers. One worker was fired less than a day after he spoke at a May 23 rally at the California State Capitol in support of the legislation.
DaVita and the other major dialysis company, Fresenius, made $3.9 billion in profits from their dialysis operations in the United States in 2016, but workers say the companies are not spending enough money to improve patient care or provide adequate staffing in their clinics.
SB 349 would mandate annual inspections of dialysis clinics, safer staffing levels and 45-minute transition time between patients. Currently, dialysis clinics are inspected on average every five to six years, while nursing homes in California must be inspected every year. Increased transition time would allow more time for patients to recover from their treatment and for workers to sanitize equipment and reduce infections.
Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for 66,000 Californians with kidney failure who must have their blood removed, cleaned, and put back into their bodies. But their patient care is suffering.
Dialysis workers have reported situations where they must monitor and care for ten or more patients at the same time for hours on end, raising concerns when multiple patients are at risk of falling blood pressure, fainting, having some other complication or just needing to use the restroom.
Eight states already have minimum staffing levels in dialysis clinics: Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.