Bad ideas repeat themselves. Voters resoundingly rejected Proposition 8 on dialysis clinics two years ago. Now Proposition 23 is back. With some changes, but with enough of the old to tell you: No!
Two years ago, the SEIU-UHW West union put a ballot initiative on the ballot to pressure the dialysis industry in its labor dispute. We have nothing against unions. On the contrary, they usually play an important role in defending their members. But here the priority for voters must be another.
It is estimated that there are more than 80,000 people who depend on around 600 dialysis centers. To have a good dialysis treatment, the patient needs 4 hours of dialysis, 3 times a week. During that time, they are connected to a machine whose purpose is to remove excess water, solutes and toxins from the blood. It does the job of the liver. There are people, the most fortunate, it is only a small time in this routine, waiting for a transplant. The least fortunate spend the rest of their life in this routine. The alternative is death.
One of the pillars of Proposition 23 is that there is a doctor around the clock supervising the treatments. It does not sound bad at first glance but looking closely it is a recipe that does not lead to a successful outcome for patients.
Just having a doctor present 16 hours a day, seven days a week does not guarantee anything. The clinics already have an administrative doctor responsible for what happens. A trained and specialized staff of nurses, dietitian technicians and social workers. Dialysis patient care is much more than the vital connection to a machine. It is a routine.
The cause for concern is that requiring a doctor to look at every puncture that occurs will be very costly for the dialysis center. The effect will be the closure of clinics. If there are about 15 clinics in the San Fernando Valley, some of them may be affected. It is a mistake to think that all the clinics belong to the DaVita and Fresenius companies, which the union has the conflict.
There are 28% of non-profit centers that will be hurt because they do not have the pockets of the private sector. The patients who attend them will have to travel more distance to be treated in a hospital at a higher cost to the taxpayer. They will have to wait in a place that is not physically prepared -with enough machines- and distracting the attention of a hospital staff that is required in other more urgent tasks. The patient with a chronic disease such as kidney failure needs stability. Studies show that missing a dialysis session per month (or more) increases the risk of death by 30% compared to someone who regularly attends dialysis.
Voters have nothing to do in the middle of a labor dispute that can harm the health of seriously ill patients. Say No to Proposition 23!