Grady Officials Mull Closing Dialysis Center

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Officials at Grady Memorial Hospital are considering closing its outpatient dialysis clinic.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports today:

The outpatient dialysis clinic serves about 90 people, most of whom are poor and cannot pay for care. About half are undocumented immigrants without health insurance, officials said.

The clinic loses about $4 million a year, adding to the financial difficulties of a hospital that runs a $50 million deficit annually.

Patients who receive the lifesaving service needed for kidney disease say they are afraid they will not find free services elsewhere and their health will spiral downward.

Grady Board Chairman Pete Correll said the board wants to make sure the patients are taken care of, should the clinic close.

“We’re not going to let people die on the street,” he said.

Many of Grady’s dialysis patients come to the charity hospital as they await approval for Medicare, then take their business elsewhere. It presents a financial burden on the hospital, said hospital CEO Michael Young, who assumed the job in September.

He said metro Atlanta has more than 100 privately operated dialysis clinics, and they should step up to help these patients. Grady is discussing options with some dialysis providers that would ensure the hospital’s patients receive care.

Young stressed that no final decision has been made regarding the future of the clinic, and that ultimately the hospital may choose not to close it. Inpatient dialysis services will remain.

The Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority (FDHA) moved to close the clinic in 2007 but reversed their position after a public outcry.

Grady has already announced the closure of three of its nine neighborhood clinics. Thanks to an intervention from DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson, one of the three, the South DeKalb clinic on Rainbow Drive, will remain open for now.

Community activists like the Grady Coalition stood opposed to the management shift from the FDHA to the business-oriented Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation (GMHC), which took over last May, because of proposals like these they felt the GMHC would eventually consider.

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