CA Patients, Workers Push Bill to Reform Dialysis Treatment

Workers in Moreno Valley rallied Wednesday in favor of a bill that would mandate minimum staffing levels at dialysis clinics. Photo Credit: SEIU

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

LOS ANGELES – Dialysis centers up and down the state are drawing protests this week from patients and health-care workers who support a bill to require clinics to improve patient care.

Senate Bill 349 would mandate higher staffing levels and annual state inspections of dialysis clinics.

Sean Wherley, the spokesperson for the union that represents some dialysis workers, says the bill would also enforce a 45-minute transition period between patients, so they can wait for their blood pressure to return to normal and the staff has time to properly disinfect the equipment.

“Right now, there is no set transition time between patients – so, they may have as little as 15 minutes, even though the three- to four-hour process can leave them exhausted and at risk of infection, or fainting,” he explains.

About 66,000 Californians rely on dialysis to stay alive, a process that cycles blood out of the body, filters and returns it, three times a week.

Davita and Fresenius, the two largest dialysis corporations, contend the regulations are unnecessary and will lead to fewer available appointments and higher costs for Medicare and Medi-Cal. Wherley notes that together, the two companies made almost $4 billion in the U.S. last year.

Protesters rallied in Sacramento and L.A. on Thursday, and in Moreno Valley and Oakland on Wednesday. Wherley believes that dialysis clinics should have minimum staffing levels, just as hospitals do for registered nurses.

“We’ve heard numerous stories from patients who have fainted; there weren’t staff nearby to help them,” he adds. “Needing to use the restroom during treatment and yet, no staff could come over to unhook them, and they soiled themselves. And it leaves everyone vulnerable, both workers and patients.”

Senate Bill 349 has already passed the State Senate and should be taken up by the State Assembly by next Friday, which is the deadline for any bills to pass before lawmakers adjourn for the session.