Emergency Arrangements in Works for Grady Dialysis Patients

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(APN) ATLANTA — An emergency plan appears to be coming together for the former Grady Hospital dialysis patients who were set to lose their care today, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

38 former Grady Hospital patients are still receiving dialysis from Fresenius under a temporary contract between Grady and the private dialysis provider. Grady had agreed to pay Fresenius to provide dialysis for the patients through August 31, 2010. At first, Grady did not even want to honor that contract–and had set earlier “deadlines” for the patients to find other care options–but it has honored it, under pressure from advocates, attorneys, and international human rights organizations.

Dekalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson has been convening negotiations between Grady Hospital, Grady Advocates for Responsible Care, Fresenius, and other private dialysis providers over the last couple of days, at the request of GARC. Dorothy Leone-Glasser, leader of GARC, told APN that they had requested assistance from all public officials but that Johnson was the one to step forward.

As of yesterday’s negotiation, August 31, Emory University’s dialysis clinic has agreed to take three of the patients in-kind or as charity; Davita dialysis has expressed interest in taking five, pending executive approval; and Fresenius has agreed to take another five. That leaves another 25 with no long-term solution, and it is not clear for how long the three clinics will provide the charitable care for those 13.

Glasser said she was not sure how Grady and the clinics would decide which patients would get the charitable care, agreeing it was a bit like the book, Sophie’s Choice. “If you’re going to live, step to the right. If you’re going to die, step to the left,” Glasser said.

As of Monday, August 30, Grady Hospital was still insisting that any of the 38 patients not taken on by a private clinic would need to start receiving dialysis at their local emergency room.

However, this is not cost effective for taxpayers, nor is it safe for the patients. The emergency rooms have to admit them, but would have given them a blood test to see if their potassium levels were critical and would only provide dialysis if the levels were in fact critical. This would give the patients an incentive to wait to get as sick as possible before seeking care.

As of today, all 38 patients plan on showing up for dialysis at Fresenius, and Grady has verbally agreed that they can continue going to Fresenius–with Grady footing the bill–until a more long-term arrangement can be worked out.

“Mr. Johnson told me to tell the patients to continue going to Fresenius. All of these negotiations should be completed by the end of this week, beginning of next week. He looked at me when he started the meeting and said the 38 patients will be taken care of,” Leone-Glasser recalled.

Grady and Fresenius are said to be in negotiations for the continued care of the remaining patients, and they will need to renew their existing contract or come up with a new contract.

As previously reported by APN, Grady Hospital closed its dialysis center in October 2009, impacting 96 patients. Those patients were told to go to another state, get care at an emergency room, or, where applicable, return to Mexico.

Most of the patients have scattered and are no longer in contact with GARC or Grady, Leone-Glasser said, and at least four of the patients have died, as APN has previously reported.

A candlelight vigil was held for the patients who have died and the others whose lives are in limbo, last night, August 31, at Grady Hospital.

Today, September 01, activists will be attending the Fulton County Commission Meeting downtown at the Fulton County Government Center at 10am, asking the Commission to take action.

A rally was also held last week, on Thursday, August 26, also at Grady.

Also, on August 25, State Sen. Vincent Fort and the Grady Coalition delivered a letter to Emory University’s President, asking Emory to care for the patients. As already noted, Emory has agreed to take three patients.

Organizations that have been advocating for the Grady dialysis patients include the Grady Coalition, GARC, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and the International Action Center, Atlanta.

Meanwhile, there is still a pending appeal before the Georgia Court of Appeals concerning a medical abandonment claim brought by GARC against Grady Hospital, with Lindsay Jones serving as the attorney. The court sent notice they would be reviewing their appeal during their September term, which is from September through December, 2010, Leone-Glasser said.

“There has to be a transfer for care, a discharge of a patient to other care, just like a doctor would do, that’s what it’s been based on,” Leone-Glasser said of the complaint. This case was originally brought before Fulton County court, where Judge Ural Glanville issued a temporary restraining order, which was then lifted when Glanville decided that, at the time, the dialysis patients had not yet lost their care, and so GARC’s claim was in fact “anticipatory abandonment.”

In addition, there is still a pending human rights complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which issued precautionary measures, asking the Government of the US to instruct the “competent authorities” to take all urgent measures necessary to ensure all required care be provided to all of the dialysis patients.

GARC has written to President Barack Obama; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; the Ambassador of the Organization of American States; the Executive Secretary of IACHR; and US Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA), John Lewis (D-GA), and David Scott (D-GA), asking them to look into the status of the precautionary measures, and GARC has not received any response as of yet, Leone-Glasser said.

(END/2010)

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