The California State Senate’s Health Committee stood with dialysis caregivers yesterday by their decisive vote in favor of the Dialysis Patient Safety Act (SB 349), which would set safe caregiver-to-patient ratios in chronic dialysis clinics statewide, mandate safer transition times between patients for infection control, and require annual inspections of the facilities.
“When we have too many patients with not enough nurses and techs to take proper care of them, it can lead to unsafe incidents,” said Ronnie Batino, RN, a dialysis nurse who works in a Fullerton clinic and traveled to Sacramento to testify in favor of the bill. “While the nurse tends to one patient who has passed out from low blood pressure, another patient with HIV or hepatitis can bleed out all over the floor, endangering other patients and caregivers because of the infection control hazard.”
State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced the bill in February and presented it yesterday to the committee chaired by State Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez. The bill calls for ratios in California’s chronic dialysis clinics of no more than 1 RN to 8 patients, 1 tech to 3 patients and 1 social worker to 25 patients. Dialysis clinics have become a multi-billion-dollar industry, with around 650 such clinics in the state. More than 63,000 Californians depend on dialysis treatments several times weekly to stay alive.
“California led the nation in passing safe nurse-to-patient ratios for hospitals in 1999,” said Denise Duncan, RN, President of UNAC/UHCP, a co-sponsor of SB 349 and a leader in the original effort to win California’s safe nurse staffing law. “As a result, hospital patients in California are safer than anywhere else in the country. Seven other states have minimum dialysis staffing levels. In California, the dialysis industry has been operating in the dark for too long, largely unregulated. It’s time we in California step up to lead the country when it comes to safe dialysis care, as we do in so many other areas.”
“For our patients, dialysis is not just a treatment. It’s their life,” said Batino. “Three times a week they spend 3-4 hours with us, and will for the rest of their lives. Many are parents with young children at home, or spouses who depend on them. They have such courage. This bill is about helping to save their lives by ensuring they get safe, good-quality care so they can have long, happy lives with their families.”
The bill will now move on to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing expected next week.
United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) represents over 28,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals, including optometrists; pharmacists; physical, occupational and speech therapists; case managers; nurse midwives; social workers; clinical lab scientists; physician assistants and nurse practitioners. UNAC/UHCP is affiliated with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO.