Former Grady Board Consents to Dialysis Closure

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The Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority (FDHA) announced Monday that it has consented to the planned closure of the Grady Health System Outpatient Dialysis Clinic on October 3.

“We feel that the [FDHA] and the Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation are now in agreement,” Pam Stephenson, FDHA chair, said. “The [FDHA] has been assured by the [GMHC] that the 50 or so dialysis patients will be offered a chance to receive outpatient dialysis care at Fresenius with Grady’s help for 90 days.”

The GMHC voted September 14 to enter into a two-year contract with Fresenius Medical Care to provide outpatient dialysis services to many of the clinic’s 96 patients and had planned to close the clinic September 20, arguing it lost too much money annually to remain open.

About half of the clinic patients are undocumented, uninsured immigrants who patient advocates argued would have a hard time obtaining private insurance or some government plan like Medicaid.

Other patients impacted include U.S. citizens who may not have lived in Georgia long enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Atlanta attorney Lindsay Jones, representing two anonymous dialysis patients, filed an ex parte motion in Fulton County Superior Court just days before the planned closure, asking Judge Ural Glanville to intervene.

Glanville responded on September 16 by issuing a temporary restraining order against Grady that forbade officials from closing the clinic or inducing patients to seek care in other states or in their country of origin.

After attorneys for both parties made their case September 23, Glanville ruled two days later to rescind the order, paving the way for the clinic to close October 3.

The FDHA, whose 10 members are appointed by the Fulton and DeKalb Board of Commissioners, controlled the day-to-day operations of the system until May 2008 when the GMHC, a 17-member, private, non-profit board, took over.

The lease agreement requires the GMHC to consult with the FDHA before making any major service changes, though it does not define what specifies consultation nor does it give the FDHA any veto power.

The FDHA spent over an hour behind closed doors talking with CEO Michael Young and GMHC chair Pete Correll about the closure.

“We did get the consultation today,” FDHA board member Thomas Dortch told the public afterwards. “We did have the conversation.”

Dortch and FDHA board member Bob Holmes urged patient advocates to mobilize other advocates and patients who use Grady and live outside Fulton and DeKalb to petition those county commissions and the state government to send financial help that the cash-strapped Grady badly needs.

Dr. Neil Schulman, a nephrology expert and representative from the Grady Advocates for Responsible Care, told the FDHA that his group has been in contact with other hospitals, clinics, and dialysis providers outside Fresenius who expressed a willingness to take on some of the remaining dialysis patients.

Officials appeared warm to the idea of other institutions pitching in, perhaps raising the possibility that some patients can obtain care locally.

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