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New legislation recently passed and signed into law in Texas will improve support and prioritization for dialysis services during times of unanticipated natural disasters where treatment continuity for patients is threatened. And for the first time anywhere, Senate Bill (SB) 1876 allows emergency ambulance transport of dialysis patients directly to outpatient centers instead of the emergency rooms when appropriate. This measure will help relieve strain on emergency rooms for patients whose only health concern is needing life-sustaining dialysis.
Crisis management for those living with kidney failure historically paints a picture of de-prioritization and over-reliance on local providers to ensure continuity of care during natural disasters. Now, because of recent changes in the law, there is hope for elevated priority of this critical patient population during crisis situations.
In addition to changes that allow ambulances to deliver patients to dialysis centers, SB 1876 elevates emergency status for dialysis centers to the level of hospitals during power and water outages. This ensures providers are prepared and working collaboratively to deliver resources for patients in their region. To help guarantee the legislation is executed comprehensively, both the public and private sectors are being given new resources to better collaborate and mitigate these types of crisis situations. By mandating intersectional collaboration, the state is further emphasizing its commitment to change.
“Having undergone a kidney transplant myself, I understand the importance of uninterrupted kidney care, especially during an emergency or a natural disaster,” said Senator Borris Miles, (D-Houston) who authored the legislation and is helping lead these efforts. “We will be closely monitoring the implementation of this bill to ensure that patients receive the timely care they deserve no matter the circumstance.”
Since the bill was signed into law, departments at the state and industry level have started meeting to address operationalization of these new requirements.
With hurricane season underway, the timeliness of this bill could not be more important for those who rely on life-sustaining dialysis treatment to manage their kidney failure.
The Disaster Response Team at Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA) knows firsthand the impact these changes will make in responding to natural disasters and ensuring continuity of care for dialysis patients. The team has responded to disasters across the U.S., including in Texas, Louisiana, and other states around the Gulf Coast.
“We have dedicated incident command teams across the nation, who have been trained and are ready to mobilize with gas, diesel, water, fuel, and campers as soon as it’s safe after a weather emergency hits,” explains Bob Loeper, VP of Disaster Response at FMCNA. “These teams are in constant communication with patients, physicians, and local authorities to ensure rapid coverage. While FMCNA’s disaster efforts to-date have relied on the creativity and ingenuity of our amazing care teams across the nation, prioritizing dialysis centers for water and power restoration will help ensure treatment stability for patients into the future.”
Protecting the ESRD patient population is essential to ongoing efforts to deliver high-quality care. Most importantly, legislative efforts like SB 1876 underscore the fact that care must remain equitable and accessible in emergent situations.
Any person in need of life-sustaining dialysis, or who may have questions about where to receive care before, during, or after a storm, should call Fresenius Kidney Care’s 24-hour Emergency Hotline at 1-800-626-1297. This service is available for any dialysis patient in the impacted region regardless of care provider. For more information on emergency preparedness for people living with kidney disease, visit Planning for Emergency on Dialysis | Fresenius Kidney Care.