Budget cuts have left many dialysis centers un-inspected for five years or longer — and patients using them are at risk.
So says an investigative report by ProPublica. While the report focuses on issues in the state of California, federal records show that inspection rates for the facilities range from 40% per year in some states to a dismal 10% in others. For example, in the past five years, 45% of dialysis centers in Oklahoma, and one-third of centers in Colorado and Louisiana haven’t been inspected.
The inconsistent inspections are largely the result of budgetary issues: The feds set standards and pay the states to carry out the inspections. But federal funds for the inspections haven’t kept up with the growth of health centers.
Budget-crunched states have to prioritize which facilities will get inspected and re-certified in any given year — and most states rank dialysis lower than nursing homes, home health providers and some hospitals.
States can carry out less extensive inspections when patients file complaints about a specific center, but even that is no guarantee that a facility will have an inspector knock at its door during any given 12-month period.
In the meantime, dialysis centers are policing themselves. And while many no doubt try to adhere to the highest standards, there’s certainly room for improvement. Recent reports show that among industrialized nations, U.S. dialysis patients have some of the worst rates for hospitalization and mortality.