HHC dialysis units sale on hold as quality of care reviewed

Fighting to keep public healthcare public

We pressed our case against HHC’s plan to privatize chronic dialysis services for patients at four HHC facilities – Harlem, Kings County, Metropolitan, and Lincoln hospitals – and have protected them, so far, as the Department of Health removed the proposed sale of the units to a for-profit operator from the agenda of its March 27 meeting. Without the approval of DOH’s Committee on Establishment and Project Review, the application of the operator, Big Apple Dialysis, is on hold.

Widespread concern

Big Apple Dialysis has come under scrutiny by patients, community advocates, and elected officials, including Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lillian Barrios-Paoli, Public Advocate Tish James, and 11 members of the City Council, as well as two state senators, as its record of patient care revealed serious quality issues. The skilled nephrology nurses of NYSNA who staff the four units have spoken out about their concerns for patients should Big Apple Dialysis, largely staffed by unskilled technicians, take over. HHC acknowledges that care at the four units has been well maintained. The sale was to help with budgetary goals – to save money. 

Positive results

HHC doctors shared our concerns. “We are pleased that HHC has rethought the outsourcing of dialysis as we believe patient care services are best provided by the excellent patient care team that we have at HHC facilities and hospitals,” said Dr. Frank Proscia, Doctors Council SEIU president.

Clarette Fontanelle, a dialysis patient at Kings County, said, “We are very happy about the news. We really want the mayor to give close consideration and review the quality care issues at Big Apple Dialysis and that’s what he’s doing. We are very thankful.”

RNs spoke; the city listened

NYSNA RNs and staff, and dialysis patients, testified before the DOH and the City Council Health Committee about HHC’s plan to privatize dialysis services.

Why interfere with proven quality?

“I currently work as an RN in the Chronic Dialysis Unit at Harlem Hospital. It is critical to safe and effective dialysis to have RNs treat chronic dialysis patients, because patients can become unstable very quickly, as most of our patients have other co-morbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension, and coronary issues.

“My colleagues and our patients are concerned about the quality of care our patients will receive if chronic dialysis service is sent elsewhere, in particular to a for-profit model of care that largely removes nurses and other clinical staff from dialysis care. We will move on to other RN assignments but their move will be costly, in terms of quality of care and outcomes. Why interfere with such proven quality care?”

– David Quarshie, RN, Harlem Hospital

Defending quality healthcare for all

“Removing dialysis patients from the public hospital clinics was ill-conceived. Privatization of services at HHC, a system that serves one in six New Yorkers, has lowered quality and threatens to undercut one of the finest public health systems in all of America’s cities. We are very glad that the city has heard our concerns.”

– Anne Bové, RN, Bellevue Hospital, President of the NYSNA HHC/Mayorals Executive Council

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