[May 17, 2017] LOS ANGELES – People across the country are swarming to learn more about problems affecting the dialysis industry after a critical segment aired May 14 on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
The 24-minute clip has been viewed on YouTube more than 2.7 million times and generated 4,200 comments, while on Facebook it has garnered 336,000 views and 7,700 ‘likes,’ and the hash tag coined by Oliver, #WhenIDiePleaseTakeMyKidneys, trended yesterday on Twitter.
“I wasted 10 years of my life on dialysis and none other than with DaVita,” Yasi Sevilla posted in the video’s comments section on YouTube. “They would do anything in their power to hold you as long as they can, they won’t help you, inform you or tell you about a kidney transplant.”
During the segment, Oliver highlighted the dialysis industry’s practice of boosting profits through alleged schemes that resulted in million-dollar legal settlements for fraudulently billing for drugs and failing to disclose risks of medication. It also mentioned federal regulations that allow for woefully low staffing levels at dialysis clinics, and included excerpts from a dialysis company video in which the CEO compares his management of dialysis clinics to that of Taco Bell restaurants.
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 hours, and must be conducted three days a week for the rest of the patient’s life. More than 468,000 Americans receive daily treatment in dialysis clinics.
In California, a bill is moving through the legislature to mandate annual inspections of dialysis clinics, safer staffing levels and more time between patients to allow them to recover and for staff to sanitize equipment to reduce infections, the second-leading cause of death for dialysis patients. The bill has passed two committees in the State Senate and a vote by the full Senate is expected no later than June 2. More than 500 dialysis workers, patients and allies are expected to attend a May 23 rally in support of the bill at the state capitol in Sacramento, Calif.
Currently, dialysis clinics in California are inspected on average every five to six years, while nursing homes – and even restaurants – are inspected every year.
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 and patients say the companies pocket the money rather than use some of it to improve patient care or provide adequate staffing in their clinics.
Dialysis workers regularly report low staffing levels and say it threatens patient care. 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) for safer working conditions, and stronger worker and patient protections. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.morethannumbers.org.