[April 25, 2017] SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Statewide efforts to improve patient care and staffing at dialysis clinics are moving through the legislature after the Senate Judiciary Committee became the second panel to pass a bill to improve care at 560 dialysis clinics serving 63,000 patients in California.
“It’s nearly impossible to do what’s right for our patients when we’re responsible for too many vulnerable people at the same time,” said Megallan Handford, a registered nurse and dialysis worker from Corona, Calif., who testified at the hearing. “We need more time to sanitize the dialysis equipment and monitor patients post-treatment, when their blood pressure is dropping and are at grave risk if we don’t respond fast enough. Patients’ lives are on the line.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 349, The Dialysis Patient Safety Act, after the Senate Health Committee passed the measure last month. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
SB 349 calls for annual inspections of dialysis clinics and safer staffing levels. In California, dialysis clinics are inspected on average only once every five to six years, far fewer than most other healthcare facilities. Nursing homes in California, for example, must be inspected every year. In addition, the legislation mandates 45 minutes from the time one patient finishes treatment until the next one begins treatment to allow for proper cleaning and reduce infections.
Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for people with kidney failure who must have their blood removed, cleaned, and put back into their bodies. A typical treatment lasts three to four hours, and must be conducted three days a week for the rest of the patient’s life.
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.
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 to improve patient care or provide adequate staffing in their clinics.
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 have been uniting in a union, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), for safer working conditions and stronger worker and patient protections.