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This kidney dialysis company promises services despite a person’s ability to pay

A patient gets help from a patient care technician at a DaVita dialysis facility in Durham. The company operates 72 dialysis centers in North Carolina. It now wants to move into Johnston County.
A patient gets help from a patient care technician at a DaVita dialysis facility in Durham. The company operates 72 dialysis centers in North Carolina. It now wants to move into Johnston County. N&O file photo

Johnston County could be home to a new kidney dialysis center if state officials approve the $2 million project. DaVita, a national kidney care company, is applying for a state permit to build Clayton Dialysis a mere 2.2 miles from a competing facility.

DaVita’s bid to break into Johnston County is a reflection of the Triangle’s growing urban population at the expense of rural parts of the state. DaVita plans to transfer 10 dialysis stations from centers it operates in Wilson County and build a Clayton Dialysis facility several blocks from Johnston Health Clayton hospital.

In its application to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, DaVita says Clayton is one of the fastest-growing towns in the state.

“Presently there is only one provider in the county,” DaVita said in its application. “The primary site we are proposing is located near the area of the county that has and is experiencing rapid population growth.”

The state’s dominant dialysis chain, Fresenius Medical Care, runs the only three dialysis facilities in Johnston County – in Clayton, Four Oaks and Smithfield. Fresenius, with a total of 109 dialysis stations in North Carolina, could oppose DaVita’s application, but the company has not publicly stated its intentions.

Fresenius spokeswoman Rebecca Sail said the company is reviewing DaVita’s application. The deadline to file public comments and objections to DaVita’s project is Oct. 31. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14 in Smithfield.

Meanwhile, DaVita is opposing a Fresenius application to install a 10-station dialysis facility in Selma, which would be Fresenius’s fourth such facility in Johnston County. In an Aug. 31 filing, DaVita alleges that the Fresenius application contains errors and misstatements, and notes that several of its centers in Johnston County have been cited by Medicare for safety violations.

DaVita operates 2,316 dialysis centers nationwide, including 72 in North Carolina, according to the company’s web site.

In its Sept. 15 application, DaVita said it will offer services regardless of ability to pay, emphasizing that it will make dialysis services available to low-income clients and racial and ethnic minorities. If a patient is unable to pay, the company promises, “the patient balance is forgiven or reduced.”

“Payment will not be required upon admission,” the company said. “Clayton Dialysis will work with patients who need transportation, when necessary.”

DaVita said it is moving dialysis operations from Wilson County to Johnston County because there’s a projected surplus in the former and a shortage in the latter, according to the N.C. Semiannual Dialysis Report of July 2017.

That report projects a shortage of 11 dialysis stations in Johnston County, the largest deficit in North Carolina. It also projects a surplus of 13 dialysis stations in Wilson County, one of the largest surpluses projected in the state.

North Carolina law requires health care companies to receive a state permit – called a certificate of need, or a CON – to build and expand hospitals and other medical facilities and services.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski

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