Clinics’ inadequate staffing, patient care strains 911 system

LOS ANGELES – California’s largest union of firefighters endorsed a statewide ballot initiative, contending it will improve patient care for people with kidney failure, decrease pressure on the 911 emergency response system and spare taxpayers from picking up the tab for dialysis clinics that fail to invest in adequate staffing.

Prop. 8, the Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act, will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot and is supported by the California Democratic Party, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, veterans, patients, healthcare advocates and more than 130 community organizations, labor unions and churches.

“Taxpayers and our 911 emergency system are being stressed by dialysis providers that refuse to invest in safe staffing levels and patient care practices,” said Brian K. Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, representing more than 30,000 firefighters in the state. “Prop. 8 will correct that problem, protect patient safety and ensure taxpayers aren’t on the hook subsidizing operators that put profits ahead of patient care and public safety.”

According to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, just 20 dialysis clinics in their jurisdiction placed 2,457 emergency calls over a five-year period, with the volume increasing from an average of 20 calls per clinic in 2012 to 31 calls per facility in 2016 – and that’s a fraction of the 169 clinics in the county.

Dialysis employees have reported that chronic understaffing is a contributing factor to patient emergencies and use of 911, as workers are overwhelmed on a daily basis, which makes it difficult to deliver proper patient care or infection control.

Prop. 8 improves care for dialysis patients by limiting dialysis corporations’ revenues to 15 percent above the amount they spend on patient care and pushes them to invest in hiring more staff, buying new medical equipment, and improving facilities.

According to the U.S. Renal Data System, 66,000 Californians with life-threatening kidney failure get treatment in dialysis clinics.

The two largest companies, DaVita and Fresenius, made $3.9 billion in profits from their U.S. dialysis operations in 2016 – with a clinic profit margin nearly five times higher than an average hospital in California – while patient care suffered.  Dialysis patients and caregivers report sanitation problems, including bloodstains and cockroaches in clinics.

People with kidney failure often must undergo dialysis treatment three days a week at clinics to remove their blood, clean it, and put it back in their bodies. Each treatment lasts three to four hours.

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