Senator Lara Proposes Dialysis Patient Safety Act to Raise Standards for Life-Saving Care

February 14, 2017

SB 349 requires annual inspections of more than 550 dialysis clinics and ensures safe staffing levels

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced the Dialysis Patient Safety Act (SB 349) today to protect dialysis patients and improve care at more than 550 California dialysis clinics.

“Dialysis patients are grandparents, children and siblings not numbers on a balance sheet,” said Senator Lara. “It’s time to fix the dialysis industry and improve patient care for the more than 63,000 Californians who rely on this life-saving treatment in clinics daily.”

The Dialysis Patient Safety Act will require annual inspections of dialysis clinics and ensure safe staffing levels.

While dialysis is a life-saving treatment, California currently follows minimum federal standards. As a result, registered nurses can be responsible for more than 16 patients, and patient care technicians for more than 8 patients at a time.

Dialysis clinics are inspected every six years, while nursing homes in California must be inspected every year, and hospitals every two years.

Dialysis clinics are a multi-billion-dollar industry, but workers say companies pocket the money rather than invest in patient care. The United States has the worst dialysis patient outcomes in the industrialized world. Only one in three American patients on dialysis survives for five years.

Dialysis is life-saving treatment for people with kidney failure, and a typical treatment lasts three hours, and must be conducted three days a week for the rest of the patient’s life.

“For many years, the dialysis industry has operated in the dark and this has led to unsafe conditions for dialysis patients,” said Christine Lubos, a dialysis clinic Registered Nurse in Los Angeles County. “I’ve seen situations where one nurse has to assess and administer proper medication to twenty patients in two hours. That makes it difficult to provide the safest and highest quality care. As nurses, we’re patient advocates, and our joint effort with Senator Ricardo Lara will ultimately lead to higher quality care, improved safety standards and a better and updated industry to meet today's health care demands.”

“This legislation will improve patient care by holding these corporations accountable to patients and workers – not just their oversized bottom line,” said Megallan Handford, a dialysis clinic Registered Nurse from Corona.

The Dialysis Patient Safety Act is sponsored by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, SEIU State Council, and United Nurses Associations of CA/Union of Health Care Professionals, which are supporting dialysis center workers who want to improve patient care.

Seven states already have minimum staffing levels in dialysis clinics: Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.