Nurses petition to save hospital dialysis program

Posted 5/7/20

By JOHN HOWELL The seven nurses who work the dialysis program at Kent Hospital learned Tuesday morning that their jobs are being eliminated in two weeks and that the hospital has contracted DaVita Inc. to run the operation. "e;Some of them have given 40

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Nurses petition to save hospital dialysis program

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The seven nurses who work the dialysis program at Kent Hospital learned Tuesday morning that their jobs are being eliminated in two weeks and that the hospital has contracted DaVita Inc. to run the operation.

“Some of them have given 40 years of service,” said registered nurse Tricia Criner, president of Local 5008 Kent Hospital of the United Nurses & Allied Professionals.

Criner said there was scuttlebutt that the hospital was considering DaVita, and the local mounted an online petition that had garnered about 950 signatures as of Tuesday to save the hospital-operated program.

In a statement released by Care New England, of which Kent is the largest hospital in the group, Kent President and COO Robert J. Haffey said, “Like many hospitals our size in our state, Kent has made the decision to move towards contracting our in-patient dialysis services.”

He said DaVita was picked for the job based “on their clinical expertise, quality, the financial benefit, and their relationships with several other hospitals in Rhode Island.”

Criner questioned not only the logic of contracting for the service when the hospital has such a well-functioning team, but also why DaVita was chosen.

“It doesn’t take much to find dirt on these guys,” she said.

The company referred to as the “dialysis giant” in an investigative report in the Mach 3, 2017, edition of the Denver Post allegedly employed a scheme of inflating its financials by steering patients with Medicare and Medicaid to private insurers that paid 10 times more for treatments than the government. According to the report, the patients applied to the American Kidney Foundation for premium assistance for private plans under the Affordable Care Act, where the company was paid $4,000 for a procedure that the government was paying $300 for.

The article further notes that DaVita paid $495 million in May 2015 to settle whistleblower claims it overcharged the government, which came seven months after it paid $400 million to settle separate claims it offered doctors joint ventures with contracts not to send patients to non-DaVita clinics.

Asked why she thought Kent is looking to contract in-patient dialysis, Criner speculated it was a matter of money and the age of equipment. She noted that the equipment was a matter of concern about five years ago, and she said at that time the hospital auxiliary stepped forward to raise $1 million. She said she doesn’t know what happened to the money, but the equipment wasn’t purchased.

Asked about the purchase of dialysis equipment, Haffey said in an email, “We had an individual donor, who donated roughly $90,000 for 3 dialysis machines and related equipment.  The equipment was purchased with this money in 2017 and it remains in use.”

An ICU nurse, Criner said the dialysis team and ICU work closely. She estimated from 30 to 40 percent of the COVID-19 patients in ICU need dialysis.

She said the hospital’s action is “personally heartbreaking” and a “slap in the face” to the dialysis nurses.

UNAP Local 5008 represents more than 1,500 registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, emergency room techs, endoscopy techs, surgical techs, orderlies, and environmental employees at Kent Hospital.

According to the DaVita investor website, since DaVita started in 1999, it has grown to become a Fortune 500 company with nearly $6 billion in annual revenues and clinical outcomes widely and consistently recognized as the best or among the best in the kidney care industry. The company operates more than 1,400 outpatient dialysis centers and acute units in more than 700 hospitals in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

DaVita – which is Italian for “giving life” – currently has more than 32,000 employees around the nation and serves more than 114,000 patients with life-saving kidney care treatment.

The company claims nearly one in three dialysis patients in the United States is a DaVita patient.

Haffey said DaVita has offered the affected nurses an opportunity to work for them moving forward.

“While this was a difficult decision, we made it carefully and in response to the changing financial climate in healthcare,” he said.

Efforts to obtain comment from DaVita corporate offices were unsuccessful.

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