Kidney center site of visit by congressman

DaVita Mt. Adams Kidney Center patient Henry Torres is pictured during a visit last Friday with Dr. Hamilton Licht (center) and U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse.

Photo by Julia Hart
DaVita Mt. Adams Kidney Center patient Henry Torres is pictured during a visit last Friday with Dr. Hamilton Licht (center) and U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse.


Congressman Dan Newhouse (R) chats last Friday with David Natali, regional operations director for DaVita.

“You know you need it, but it feels like you’ve been walking a marathon all day,” is how Sunnysider Henry Torres describes his three-day-a-week dialysis treatments.

Torres discussed his treatment during a visit with Congressman Dan Newhouse last Friday at the Davita Mt. Adams Kidney Center in Sunnyside.

Torres shared with Newhouse the year-long effort to get on the waiting list for a transplant.

Once on the list, it typically takes a patient three years to receive a kidney, says Dr. Hamilton Licht, the Sunnyside center’s medical director.

Hosting Newhouse on Friday was not only about helping the freshman congressman see and hear first-hand about kidney dialysis. David Natali is DaVita’s regional operations director, and on Friday he briefed Newhouse about pending legislation in Congress that would allow patients with kidney failure to enroll in Medicare Advantage.

Currently, patients with kidney failure are not allowed to enroll in the advantage plan, which provides private insurance options.

That’s a problem, says Natali, because Medicare reimbursement rates are so low that the 10 percent or so of dialysis patients with private insurance are essentially subsidizing the clinic’s operations.

DaVita is also seeking increased federal funding for a “KidneySmart” program to educate patients about health issues that lead to kidney failure, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Newhouse’s visit impressed another DaVita patient, Ralph Nava.

“It shows that he cares…that he wants to see all aspects of the people who live in his district,” Nava said moments after a chat with the congressman.

The visit was not only personal for Nava and Torres, but also for Newhouse.

“You’ve got my attention,” Newhouse told Natali and Licht, noting he takes medication for high blood pressure.

Natali told Newhouse that financial pressures – until recently Medicare reimbursement rates remained unchanged for 40 years – have some companies talking about closing kidney centers.

That’s not the case, so far, with DaVita’s Sunnyside center, which treats about 75 patients.

Having a dialysis treatment option so close to home isn’t just convenient…it’s everything for patients like Nava, who is able to maintain his employment at Walmart.

“It’s a very good place,” Nava says of DaVita in Sunnyside, which is ranked 13th in the nation. “It’s the people who work here who make it that way.

“Without this place…” Nava shook his head, not wanting to think about the alternative.


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