Soapbox

Dialysis clinics put profits ahead of patients

Doctors, patients and a health care workers union are sparring over a proposed ballot measure on California dialysis clinics.
Doctors, patients and a health care workers union are sparring over a proposed ballot measure on California dialysis clinics. doswald@idahostatesman.com

As someone who had kidney failure and needs dialysis to stay alive, I want the public to know that there’s a crisis in dialysis patient care, even if the huge corporations that dominate the industry don’t want anyone to know about it (“Union’s tactics put dialysis patients in the crossfire,” Viewpoints, March 23).

Our goal is to push these corporations to invest more in patients and the people who care for us.

For 13 years, I received treatment at a dialysis clinic in North Highlands owned by industry giant DaVita. When I started treatment there in 2005, conditions were fine, but things got worse over time.

Richard Elliott

At least once a month, I’d see cockroaches. Gnats became so bad that my wife made a concoction of vinegar and soap that I brought to my appointments to keep them away. Every now and then I’d see dried blood on the clinic walls and chairs.

Another time, a patient next to me began to lose consciousness while caregivers were busy connecting other patients to their dialysis machines. There was no way they would have noticed if I hadn’t yelled for help. They used a defibrillator to bring her back but she could have died right there.

For two months during one summer, the air conditioner stopped working and they rented coolers, but there were still days when it was warmer inside the clinic than outside. Patients shouldn’t have to face these conditions while receiving treatment. It’s just wrong.

All the while, profits for the industry are soaring, $3.9 billion combined for DaVita and Fresenius from their U.S. operations in 2016. Yet these corporations fail to improve conditions in their clinics. It seems that profits matter more to them.

That’s why patients and health care workers are trying to qualify a statewide initiative for the November ballot. The Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act will hold companies accountable and improve patient care.

My hope is that by improving patient care, we can restore some dignity to the 66,000 Californians who rely on dialysis treatments to stay alive. It’s long overdue.

Richard Elliott is a Sacramento dialysis patient who is partnering with SEIU-UHW, the health care workers union sponsoring the ballot initiative. He can be contacted at rickythumpy@yahoo.com.

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