Members of the Northwest Kidney Council (NWKC) team were fortunate to have the opportunity recently to virtually tour a dialysis center, along with fellow advocates and professionals within the Pacific Northwest kidney community.
The number and variety of personnel - beyond dialysis technicians – was stunning. We had the opportunity to speak with dieticians that counsel patients on their food and drink intake, pouring over patients’ charts and creating custom, responsive plans to fit their needs. We heard from a social worker, tasked with ensuring that patients not only receive the care they need, but that they’re going home to supportive environments, and they have adequate transportation to and from treatment.
We spoke with technicians that oversaw the delivery of treatment, and those that oversaw training patients to effectively transition to in-home dialysis. Most of the chairs were full, reinforcing the need for further investment in and support for our kidney community.
Beyond the treatment itself, dialysis is only effective if the building operates efficiently, and patients can get safely to and from the center. Workers at the clinic spoke about the need to have standing agreements with local governments to ensure power and water supply, and what the impacts of storms or other natural disasters might be on the kidney community.
They spoke about the recent establishment – and the complicated administrative logistics – of a COVID-only dialysis center at a different location, because of the need to isolate patients with the virus and protect everyone else from exposure. People requiring dialysis are unlike some other chronic disease patients – unless the patient is trained for at-home dialysis their only treatment is to go to a clinic, treatment isn’t something that can done via telehealth. For most kidney patients, stay-at-home orders aren’t feasible. This at-risk population must go in for treatment, regardless of other illnesses, including COVID. Health care providers in the kidney community have clearly had to shoulder serious lifts throughout the pandemic to continue delivering care to their patients.
Above all, the tour underscored the need to support the entire continuum of the kidney community – patients, families, technicians, social workers, dieticians, advocates, and everyone else.