LOS ANGELES, May 25, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dialysis corporation DaVita fired a 16-year employee less than one day after he gave a moving speech at a May 23 rally at the California State Capitol in support of legislation to improve patient care, safety and staffing at 562 dialysis clinics throughout the state.
"Davita and Fresenius are putting us workers in a position to fail," said Emerson Padua, a dialysis patient care technician, before 400 dialysis patients and healthcare workers. "When I started in the industry 21 years ago, it was all about patient care. Now they have us so short-staffed, that I'm like a part-time janitor, part-time social worker, part-time dietician and part-time inventory technician."
DaVita fired Padua May 24 via a phone call – for alleged policy violations – and three other employees at the same clinic in Riverside, Calif. In response, a labor union – SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) – filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Dialysis workers in California have been trying to join SEIU-UHW since last year, and have been met with fierce resistance by their employers.
"This type of unwarranted retaliation speaks to the profits-before-patients mentality and illustrates why there is growing support nationally for reforming the dialysis industry," said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), a supporter of SB 349, the Dialysis Patient Safety Act. "Infections are the second leading cause of death for dialysis patients, and rather than partnering with its workers to improve patient care, companies seem to be focused on punishing caregivers who are trying to address the issue."
Padua's firing follows recent negative publicity for DaVita, coming less than 10 days after HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" broadcast a scathing segment about DaVita and the dialysis industry, which has been viewed more than 4.2 million times on YouTube. The segment included an interview with a registered nurse, Megallan Handford, who DaVita fired last October after 14 years of employment for allegedly soliciting union support among his co-workers.
SB 349 would mandate annual inspections of dialysis clinics, safer staffing levels and 45-minute transition time between patients. Currently, dialysis clinics are inspected on average every five to six years, while nursing homes – and restaurants – in California must be inspected every year. The time between patient treatments at a dialysis station can be as short as 15 minutes, which is not enough time for patients to recover from their session or for workers to sanitize equipment and reduce infections.
Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for 66,000 Californians with kidney failure who must have their blood removed, cleaned, and put back into their bodies. But their patient care is suffering. The two largest dialysis corporations – DaVita and Fresenius – made $2.9 billion in profits from their dialysis operations in the United States in 2015, but workers say the companies are not spending enough money to improve patient care or provide adequate staffing in their clinics.
Dialysis workers have reported situations where they must monitor and care for ten or more patients at the same time for hours on end, raising concerns when multiple patients are at risk of falling blood pressure, fainting, having some other complication or just needing to use the restroom.
Eight states already have minimum staffing levels in dialysis clinics: Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the western United States with 90,000 members. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.
CONTACT: Sean Wherley, (323) 893-6831
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SOURCE SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West