[May 23, 2017] SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Four hundred healthcare workers, dialysis patients and allies from across California rallied at the State Capitol to support legislation to improve patient care, safety and staffing at 560 dialysis clinics throughout the state.
“I’ve seen how busy dialysis clinics are with technicians and nurses running around trying to handle all of the patients that come in,” said Amar Bajwa, a dialysis patient from Fontana, Calif., who spoke at the rally. “They aren’t always able to provide the kind of care dialysis patients deserve and yet our lives depend on it.”
Senate Bill 349, the Dialysis Patient Safety Act, 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 – and restaurants – in California must be inspected every year. The time between patient treatments at a dialysis station can be as short as 15 minutes, which is not enough time for patients to recover from their session or for workers to sanitize equipment and reduce infections. Infections are the second leading cause of death for dialysis patients.
The legislation is authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and has passed two Senate committees, and faces a June 2 deadline to be voted on by the full Senate. The rally follows a scathing segment about the dialysis industry broadcast May 14 on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” which has been viewed more than three million times on YouTube.
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. The two largest dialysis corporations – DaVita and Fresenius – made $2.9 billion in profits from their dialysis operations in the United States in 2015, but workers say the companies are not spending enough money to improve patient care or provide adequate staffing in their clinics.
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.
Dialysis workers in California are trying to form a union with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) to improve working conditions and strengthen worker and patient protections. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.morethannumbers.org.