Medical Abandonment? Dialysis Patients Stand to Lose

Patients receiving dialysis treatments at Grady Memorial Hospital are running out of time and options.

In early October, Grady was forced by expenses to close its out patient dialysis unit. The hospital paid a separate clinic to provide dialysis services to patients who had nowhere else to receive treatments due to lack of insurance, government assistance or other alternatives. However, they only secured that clinic for three additional months – and that time is now running out.

Some thirty patients still receiving care stand to have nowhere to go starting January 3. These patients – mostly low-income immigrants – fear for their health after that. Without dialysis, they stand to have little to do but watch their health spiral downward.

Matt Grove, a spokesman for Grady Memorial Hospital, has said that the situation is not as simple as that. The hospital’s contract with dialysis provider Fresenius actually allows for up to a year of treatment. On the other hand, the hospital’s agreement with its patients only promised three months of care. It may be possible for the hospital to extend care for those who truly have no where else to go.

Grove has made it clear that this option will be considered on a case by case basis. If approved, patients could have their dialysis covered as long as until September of next year.

More long term care remains out of reach, though. Patients and their advocates attempted again to gain attention and bring together forces which may have been able to provide real long term care solutions to the table. Unfortunately, their efforts saw little success. They failed to attract the elected officials and community leaders who they had hoped would be able to help them find an answer.

Indeed, only one of the dialysis firms invited to their forum even attended, and that one declined to take on patients.

“I don't have any options,” said Bineet Kaur, a twenty-six year old dialysis patient who confessed that she fears for her life in the event her coverage should run out.

The preliminary plans to close the dialysis center were announced in May. Since then, Grady helped many of the then approximately 90 – many of whom were poor, uninsured, undocumented immigrants – patients it served either relocate back to their home countries, or move to other states with provide more care for undocumented immigrants.

Head of the group called Grady Advocates for Responsible Care, Dorothy Leone-Glasser, expressed her disappointment that solutions for the remaining patients remains so unforthcoming.

"It's the unwillingness to come to the table that's disappointing," she has said.

Advocates and patients are not giving up just yet, despite their disillusionment. They are still pursuing a lawsuit with the aim of reopening the dialysis center at Grady. While the judge has been unfriendly to the argument that this loss of medical care is a denial of the patients’ rights under the state constitution, they hope for a warmer reception to the idea that it constitutes medical abandonment.