Bay Area Dialysis Clinics Failing to Meet the ‘Surge in Demand’
With the number of kidney disease patients expected to double in the next decade, kidney dialysis clinics "aren't opening fast enough to meet the surge in demand," especially in the "high-priced" Bay area, the San Jose Mercury News reports. "Sometimes you can't get a space [in a dialysis clinic] until someone else dies," Dr. Rudy Rodriguez, medical director of the San Francisco General Hospital dialysis unit, said. "[E]xpensive" real estate prices help make the problem particularly acute in the Bay area. This summer, for example, Gambro Healthcare of San Francisco lost its lease, forcing most of the facility's 101 dialysis patients to travel nine miles to Daly City for treatment -- a "huge problem" for patients with kidney disease. In addition, doctors say that the high cost of living in the Bay area has prompted a shortage of nurses and technicians qualified to perform the "tricky dialysis procedure, which can be disastrous if anything goes wrong." Meanwhile, according to the Transpacific Renal Network, the number of dialysis patients has "risen steadily" in eight area counties, where 44 clinics served about 5,400 patients last year. From 1997 to 2000, clinics in those counties added 138 dialysis stations, allowing them to treat 828 new patients, but the number of patients seeking treatment increased by 1,013 during the same period. At Rose Garden Dialysis in San Jose, for example, social worker Karen Ehlebracht said that the number of new patients has about doubled since 1995. "All of our units are full, full, full, and that's happening nationwide," she said. Health experts said that the "biggest reason" for the increase in dialysis patients is funding, pointing out that doctors have "increasingly prescribed" the procedure since Medicare began funding dialysis in 1973 (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 7/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.