Dialysis center to close

Avera working with employees, patients in transition process

Photo by Deb Gau DaVita Kidney Care’s Marshall dialysis center, located in the Market Street Mall, will be closing at the end of July. Company spokespeople said they are working with patients to find other treatment options that work for them — including going to the Avera Marshall dialysis center.

MARSHALL — It wasn’t an easy choice. But spokespeople for a Marshall dialysis provider said it was the only one left. DaVita Kidney Care will be closing its dialysis center in Marshall after next week.

In a statement, DaVita said the Marshall dialysis center was “financially unsustainable,” citing government medical programs that don’t cover the cost of patients’ treatments.

“We recently made the difficult decision to close Marshall Dialysis Center effective July 29, after exhausting all other options that would keep the doors open,” the statement said. DaVita said it was working with current patients to find treatment options at neighboring dialysis centers.

While the Marshall dialysis center will be closing, other DaVita centers in southwest Minnesota will remain open, company spokespeople said. Dialysis services in Marshall are also available at the Avera Marshall dialysis center, at Avera Marshall Medical Center.

Avera Marshall has been working with DaVita dialysis patients for several weeks to help them transition to new care providers, said Dodie Derynck, vice president of clinical operations at Avera Marshall. Several patients have already switched to Avera Marshall, and some of DaVita’s employees in Marshall will also be transferring to the Avera dialysis center, she said.

The DaVita and Avera Marshall dialysis centers have shared a medical director for the past several months, Derynck said. Having a director familiar with DaVita’s patients in Marshall has been a big help, as they work to transition patients to new kidney care providers, she said.

Dialysis is a vital medical service for people with kidney disease. The process uses specialized equipment to filter waste products out of a person’s blood — a job that’s normally done by healthy kidneys.

DaVita spokespeople said the financial difficulties the Marshall center faced were related to how dialysis care is paid for. About 90% of dialysis patients rely on government programs to help pay for the care they receive, DaVita spokespeople said. However, the government programs don’t cover the actual cost of providing treatment. In order to stay open, dialysis clinics need contributions from privately-insured patients.

“When that mix falls too low for too long, it’s impossible for clinics like Marshall Dialysis to stay open,” DaVita’s statement said. “This broken system is an issue that all dialysis providers and patients face. It is also an issue that disproportionately harms rural areas like Marshall, where patients have fewer options for care.”

DaVita will continue to operate dialysis centers in Pipestone, Montevideo and Redwood Falls, company spokespeople said. Anyone with questions can call the Marshall dialysis center at 532-7393.

Avera Marshall’s dialysis center should be able to accommodate patients from the DaVita center, Derynck said. The Avera Marshall dialysis unit currently has a total capacity for 31 patients, and Derynck said the unit won’t be full after DaVita closes in Marshall. However, the Avera Marshall dialysis center has expanded its operating hours from three days a week to six days a week to help accommodate new patients, she said.

DaVita spokespeople said the company is hopeful that an executive order signed by President Donald Trump last week will help lead to better access to kidney care.

The executive order calls for new initiatives for kidney care, including better education and preventative care for kidney disease, decreasing the number of people getting dialysis in dialysis centers, and making more kidneys available for transplants. Under the executive order, Medicare will adjust payment incentives to encourage preventative kidney care and the use of in-home dialysis.

“DaVita is encouraged that this administration has taken steps toward holistic, value-based care for kidney patients. We have pushed for progressive policies to give all patients access to integrated kidney care, the benefits of which are significant to our patient population,” said DaVita Inc. C.E.O. Javier Rodriguez, in a statement released after Trump’s order. Rodriguez said DaVita is also speeding up the growth of its home dialysis services, by investing in technologies like home remote monitoring and a telehealth platform.