August 31, 2017

Ventura County Star: Opinion: Hurting dialysis patients

Opinion: Hurting dialysis patients August 30, 2017 Jim Gonzales

I was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2014, and dialysis quickly became my only option to live as normal a life as possible. I receive dialysis treatments three days a week for three to four hours per day.

I don’t understand the need for Senate Bill 349, which will end up hurting dialysis patients by reducing our access to care.

The bill is sponsored by the United Healthcare Workers union and mandates arbitrary patient-to-caregiver ratios for nurses, technicians, social workers and dieticians working in California’s dialysis clinics.

This bill forces clinics to hire more staff to serve the same number of patients. Clinics unable to absorb the additional costs would have to respond by keeping the same staff but reducing the number of patients they see, leading to fewer available appointments.

As a three-tour Vietnam veteran, I’m very grateful I can dialyze at a clinic that is only two miles from my house. If my clinic were to close or cut shifts due to SB 349, I might have to travel more than 100 miles round-trip to the nearest Veterans Affairs hospital to receive treatment.

My story is not unique. More than 1,500 veterans in California need life-sustaining dialysis treatments. Veterans have higher rates of kidney failure than the rest of the population. Most veterans with kidney failure receive their care in an outpatient setting, not at the VA. If SB 349 were to pass, they could lose their current access to dialysis care.

SB 349 is opposed by organizations across the state, including the Renal Physicians Association, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, California State Council and many others.

SB 349 is dangerous for dialysis patients, particularly veterans like me. I urge our legislators, including Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, to vote no on SB 349.

Jim Gonzales, Newbury Park