Dialysis patients are used to worrying about infection and other complications that arise from having End State Renal Disease, and we are more at-risk for complications if infected with the coronavirus. Now more than ever, we need all hands-on deck to help mitigate the negative impacts of the virus while continuing to provide safe and reliable care that dialysis patients like me need to survive.
But a dialysis proposition for the November ballot would take doctors away from direct patient care, force dialysis clinics to cut services or shutdown, and unnecessarily put the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens in jeopardy.
This ballot measure would require that a physician be onsite in every dialysis clinic in the state during all hours of operation. This is an unnecessary and duplicative mandate that won’t improve patient care one bit. Each dialysis patient is already under the care of his or her nephrologist (kidney specialist) who oversees individual dialysis treatment plans.
Furthermore, dialysis is administered by specially trained nephrology nurses and patient care technicians. Finally, every dialysis clinic is already required by law to have a physician medical director who monitors a clinic’s patients and their care.
With more than 600 dialysis clinics around the state operating 12 or more hours each day, six days a week, the doctor onsite provision would prevent thousands of practicing physicians from providing essential direct patient care and transition them into non-caregiving roles.
At a time when we need all doctors and caregivers on the frontlines treating vulnerable patients, it is irresponsible to promote policies that would remove thousands of physicians from emergency rooms, hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, and instead put them into non-essential, bureaucratic roles in dialysis clinics.
A study by the Berkeley Research Group found the measure’s physician requirement would increase dialysis treatment costs by $320 million every year, and that nearly half of the 600 dialysis clinics in California would become financially infeasible, including non-profit and independent dialysis clinics.
I am one of the approximately 80,000 dialysis patients in California who rely on dialysis to stay alive. I have been on and off dialysis since I was 12 years old and diagnosed with kidney failure as a result of a bicycle accident. I was lucky enough to receive a transplant from my mother, which lasted for seven years until my body rejected it in 2000. I am thankful for dialysis because it has provided me with the gift of life while I navigate the wait list for another transplant.
Dialysis does the job of failed kidneys, removing toxins from our bodies. Most patients undergo dialysis three days a week for four hours at a time. Dialysis treatment is not optional. Missing even a single treatment increases my risk of death by 30%.
This dangerous ballot measure would put my life and other dialysis patients’ lives at risk by forcing the closure of many community dialysis clinics, jeopardizing access to our life-saving treatment.
As a board member of Dialysis Patient Citizens, I am proud to join other patient advocacy organizations representing physicians, nurses, veterans and community groups in opposing this proposition.
This ballot measure is funded by the United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) union. UHW sponsored Proposition 8, the November 2018 ballot measure that would have harmed dialysis patients by reducing access to our life-saving treatment. Fortunately, California voters rejected it by a 20-point margin.
It’s dumbfounding that this same special interest is promoting yet another dangerous proposition that once again threatens access to the care I need to stay alive, hurts all Californians by making our physician shortage worse, and increases health care costs by hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
This ballot measure is a terrible idea at the worst possible time. Learn more at www.nodialysisprop.com
Danny Iniguez of Fresno is a California board member of Dialysis Patient Citizens, a national, nonprofit dialysis patient-led advocacy group representing 28,000 patient members, with more than 4,000 in California.