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WA Bill Would Help Meet the Needs of Kidney Patients During Emergencies

HB 1690 would ensure that kidney dialysis providers in Washington have the flexibility to make informed decisions about the number of stations in their facilities during temporary emergencies, based on patient and staff needs.

As an organization representing the kidney community in Washington, the Northwest Kidney Council weighed in with the Washington Legislature in support of this bill during a hearing on Feb. 9. Our testimony reads:

On behalf of the Northwest Kidney Council, thank you for the opportunity to comment in strong support of HB 1690, which allows kidney care providers to meet the needs of their patients during times of temporary emergency to include staffing shortages.

Our organization partners with patient advocates, health care professionals, care providers and researchers to advance kidney care in both Washington and Oregon. Together we are committed to ensuring that all patients with kidney disease receive high quality care and that treatment is accessible to all.

Patients and providers learned many lessons from the pandemic, but at the top of the list is the critical need to adapt to evolving situations. As Washington’s healthcare delivery system, including kidney dialysis facilities, continues to navigate the ongoing challenges in staffing and care delivery that were exacerbated by COVID-19, there are many ways in which the Legislature can support providers and the patients they serve. Passing HB 1690 is one of those ways.

More than 15,000 Washingtonians are living with End Stage Renal Disease, which means that hundreds –if not thousands –of your constituents are on dialysis. These Washingtonians rely on dialysis 12 hours per week, to perform what healthy kidneys do in 168 hours.

The temporary flexibility outlined in HB 1690 allows patients to continue receiving quality, consistent care during emergency situations otherwise characterized by chaos and disruption.It establishes a permanent process by which dialysis providers can request temporary certificate of need flexibility during these events–like natural disasters, power outages, large-scale facility improvements like mold remediation and, of course, pandemics and staffing shortages.

While the pandemic is receding according to several metrics, dialysis facilities are still facing serious challenges in recruiting and retaining staff. The temporary flexibility allowed under HB 1690 will not only ensure that kidney patients continue to receive the care they need, but will relieve pressure on hospitals and other facilities that are also reporting capacity constraints.

Kidney patients across the country continue to be more vulnerable to negative impacts of COVID-19. Nearly three years ago, when the pandemic escalated, Gov. Inslee issued a lifesaving proclamation that allowed kidney dialysis providers to make informed decisions about the number of stations used in a facility based on the needs of their patients and their staffing levels. The language in that proclamation offers a successful model for the kind of flexibility that providers require to best serve the kidney community in their areas.

We strongly encourage the Washington Legislature to support this commonsense approach and make a permanent change to the certificate of need statute. Thank you again for the opportunity to provide our perspective.

You can find the latest on this bill here.


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