Greg Yakaboski, project analyst for the Certificate of Need Section of the Department of Health, travelled to Macon County on Tuesday morning to hear testimony from two dialysis providers: Fresenius Medical Care, with Bio-Medical Applications of North Carolina, Inc. and DaVita Dialysis Center with Total Renal Care of North Carolina, LLC. The two companies were vying for the rights to construct a dialysis facility in the county. In addition to hearing from representatives with each provider, Yakaboski heard testimony from dialysis patients and their families and friends on which provider they would like to see come to Macon County.
North Carolina has already approved Macon County for a seven station facility to provide dialysis services to residents, and now it is up to the state which provider will win the contract to operate in the county.
Fresenius Medical Care North America is a major provider of kidney dialysis services and renal care products. They provide products, dialysis care services, education and support for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), including treatment options for later stage CKD.
Fresenius' dialysis services include hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, education tools and transplant support services, in-center, at home, or in a hospital, to fit our patients' needs. They also manufacture and distribute a variety of dialysis products and equipment, including dialysis machines, dialyzers and other dialysis-related supplies.
According to Jim Swann, regional director of Health Planning for Bio-Medical Applications of North Carolina, Fresenius’ project proposal pledges to offer Home Hemodialysis for patients, a service he claims that DaVita fails to offer. “In addition to our facility providing in-center dialysis for all patients, we plan to offer in-home hemo treatment,” said Swann. “We are the only provider here today with plans to provide in-home care.”
Swann noted that in the past four years, there has been a 360 percent increase in the number of patients in need of home hemo treatment, which is why Fresenius has built in the plans to provide the service in Macon County. “When we start we may only provide the service to one or two patients, but a few years ago there 50 patients in the state receiving the treatment. They next year that number grew to 250 and in the past 4 years, there has been a 360 percent increase in patient need. We want to be prepared to offer those services.”
DaVita Dialysis Center currently operates in Sylva and has serviced patients in Western North Carolina for more than 40 years. Residents in Macon County have continued to travel across Cowee Mountain to the DaVita facility to receive treatment.
According to the company’s website, the name DaVita is an adaptation of an Italian phrase meaning, “giving life.”
DaVita’s mission statement reads, “We are becoming the greatest kidney care company the world has ever seen through our commitment to upholding our Mission and Core Values every day, in everything we do.”
According to Bill Hyland, director of healthcare planning at DaVita, they project that one patient in Macon County would require in-home hemodialysis treatment, and as the need for the services grows, DaVita is prepared to alter plans in order to ensure that those services are provided.
More than 50 Macon County residents and medical professionals gathered at the Macon County Courthouse to urge officials to allow DaVita Dialysis Center to develop the dialysis facility in Macon County.
Each testimony given on Tuesday morning urged the state to award DaVita the contract to operate in Macon County because of the company's efforts to serve residents in Macon County.
Angel Medical Center’s Chief of Staff, Gus Wilde was the first of numerous individuals who pleaded with Yakaboski to consider DaVita for Macon County. According to Wilde, the fast and easy access that his patients have because of their existing relationship with DaVita and DaVita's partnership with Mountain Kidney and Hypertension Associates of Asheville is invaluable.
“Renal patients are arguably the most complex patients we deal with,” said Wilde. “Due to their complexity, a patient’s nephrologist is crucial component of their medical care. Patients often have problems that need to be dealt with immediately. I strongly encourage you to consider allowing DaVita to become the provider in Macon County.”
Macon County resident David Seay’s testimony echoed so many other individuals by boasting about the treatment his mother has received as a patient of DaVita. “DaVita is a diligent, capable and efficient facility,” said Seay. “Every experience we have ever had with their staff and their services have been incredible. Their facility is clean and safe. DaVita is all anyone could ask for in a facility.”
Gloria Wright Thun spoke on behalf of her mother who battled with kidney failure for one year, one month and 10 days. “With my mother's condition it was a life or death situation at times to make it to the facility in Sylva,” said Thun. “We had no choice but to travel over the mountain for her treatment and the staff at DaVita took exceptional care of my mother. They loved my mother and took care of her. They became family. The DaVita staff were always patient with my mother and took time to explain to her the condition she was in and the treatment she was receiving. DaVita gave us an extra year with my mother.”
Commissioner Ronnie Beale, who has been an advocate for securing a dialysis facility in the county, spoke to Yakaboski to encourage the state to not only select DaVita as the county's provider, but to expedite the process.
“I stand here representing a lot of people in Macon County. I represent the Board of Commissioners, those who are not able to be here today because they are receiving dialysis as we speak, and people like Gladis Wright, who are no longer with us,” stated Beale. “The folks of Macon County have suffered tremendous hardships due to traveling across Cowee mountain to receive services. They do not need the added hardship of having to switch doctors, and that is why the county commissioners unanimously recommend DaVita. We have talked to the people here today and so many others and that is what they want. They want and need the continuity of keeping the doctors they have come to depend on.”
“The people of Macon County need this right now, they need this today. They can not wait any longer,” said Beale. “This is about the people so please take that into consideration when making your decision.”
Tina Konat has been receiving dialysis treatment for five years and had actually received treatment earlier Tuesday morning before speaking at the public hearing. She has received treatment from both clinics and due to her experience, urged the state to select DaVita. Konat explained that while a resident of Virginia, she was a patient of Fresenius Medical Care, but was unable to find a treatment to fit her because “doctors couldn't figure me out,” she said. “When I moved here and started going to DaVita, the doctors identified a treatment for me and fixed me within a year. The staff are like family and I encourage you to allow them to operate in Macon County.”
Yakaboski and the Certificate of Need Section of the North Carolina Department of Health will review the testimonies given on Tuesday and will determine which facility will be best suited to offer services in Macon County. After a provider is selected, there is a 30-day grace period to allow either provider the opportunity to appeal the decision. Beale believes that both providers understand the crucial need for the services in the county and have agreed not to appeal the state's decision to allow the process to be expedited.