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Dialysis for the Undocumented?

September 4, 2010

Atlanta Hospital May Resume Dialysis for Undocumented

Under a recently announced deal – not yet finalized – some thirty-eight undocumented and therefore uninsured immigrants with end-stage kidney disease may again receive the life-saving dialysis treatments they need. According to an August 31 New York Times article by Kevin Sack and Catrin Einhorn, Atlanta’s publicly-supported Grady Memorial Hospital may resume paying for the treatment of some clients, while others will be treated by local dialysis providers as charity cases.
            When Grady closed its outpatient dialysis clinic just over a year ago, it offered to pay for transporting former clients back to their home countries, and for three months of treatment.

“Five of the 13 patients who left for Mexico…have died, according to Matt Gove, a Grady senior vice president. Most died while still receiving dialysis, although not always as regularly as recommended.
            “One patient, Fidelia Perez Garcia, 32, apparently succumbed in April to complications from renal failure after running out of Grady-sponsored treatments in Mexico…Ms. Perez’s mother, Graciela Garcia Padilla, said by telephone that her family was able to raise money for three additional dialysis sessions, at a cost of about $100 each. Ms. Perez then went 12 days without dialysis and persuaded a hospital to treat her only when she was close to death…’They sent her to me just to die,’ Ms. Garcia said.

Responding to unfavorable publicity and a patient lawsuit, Grady also eventually agreed to pay for a year’s treatment of its other former patients by a commercial provider. That contract has now expired.
            The agreement now under discussion would cover only the clinic’s former patients, not those undocumented immigrants who have since developed renal disease, or may do so in the future. Our national refusal to make publically-funded healthcare available to the undocumented will continue to force them to wait until they are critically ill before they may be able to get dialysis in an emergency room.

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