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Dialysis Patients Abandoned by Grady Hospital Told One Year to Live
(APN) ATLANTA -- Twenty-three Atlanta dialysis patients' lives hang in the balance, one year after the privatized Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation decided to close its dialysis clinic and abandon its patients, now that a one-year contract that GMHC and a private clinic Fresenius had negotiated has expired.
The contract expired August 31, 2011. The patients were told that they could receive dialysis only in the emergency room, but only after becoming critically ill enough for it to qualify as an emergency, Dorothy Leone-Glasser of Advocates for Responsible Care, which is working with the patients, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Five of the patients have been hospitalized, four at Grady, as a direct result of Grady cutting off their dialysis care, she said.
"It ended on Wednesday. Thursday morning at 6am, we had all the patients meet in the parking lot of Fresenius on Executive Park Drive. Fresenius turned them away, we can't take care of you, we've discharged you, you have to go to Grady," she recalled.
"The regional director came out, and said, you're not our patients. They tried to tell her, Grady won't give us scheduled dialysis, we could die. She listened to them, and said, and now you have to leave or I'm gonna have to call the police," Leone-Glasser said.
"Saturday morning we met at 7am in front of Grady. They all marched in the emergency room. Four or five that afternoon, they were released and told to go home, we're not going to give you dialysis, you're not critical enough," Leone-Glasser said.
"Sunday night one of the same patients, who was not critical enough, became unconscious, and her sister had to find her to take her immediately to Gwinnett Medical, who did her counts and gave her dialysis, and now she's conscious again," she said.
"She was released, now what happens? She's in the same situation, it's gonna be how many days until she gets critically ill?"
"They can't keep going through this, this is torture, this is a new form of torture," Leone-Glasser said.
"The doctor at Gwinnett Medical told the same patient, that if she continued to have only emergency dialysis like that, her life expectancy would be at the most one year."
"This does take a physical toll on them, you're pushing your body to the limit, you're gonna push it too far one of these times," she said.
Grady and Fresenius were in negotiations to extend the contract, with Grady willing to pay for only part of the treatment for the patients, but were unable to come to an agreement.
"There isn't any negotiation with Grady, Grady doesn't want them anymore as patients, Grady's been very, very clear about that. We don't want you either, but they're stuck because they're a hospital and they have to give emergency treatment. So they know they're going to give them treatment, they're just gonna make them suffer a little first," Leone-Glasser said.
Twelve of the patients went to the Grady emergency room today and were deemed critically ill enough to receive care, but only for today.
Through an apparent administrative fluke, three of the patients are still getting treatment at Fresenius through September 31.
Each of the patients are immigrants with differing levels of legality status. Most are illegal immigrants, while others have a work permit or temporary visa. However, regardless of their legality status, Leone-Glasser argues that Grady has a responsibility to continue to provide medical treatment for patients who were already under their care before the clinic closed.
Grady originally told them to go back to their country of origin, to another state, or to use the emergency room; some did go back to Mexico and died shortly thereafter, as APN previously reported. Others went to other states, to find they could not get help there.
When Grady privatized a few years ago, the proponents of privatization made verbal assurances that Grady would remain a safety net hospital, but opponents warned that without any mechanism in the contract to ensure that, the safety net was at risk.
"I think it would be obvious that with privatization, I think Grady very much in the past two years has been showing the citizens of Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb County, they don't want to be a safety net hospital, they're tired of being poor, and want to be more for-profit. We have to have a safety net hospital," she said.
(END / 2011)
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