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Dialysis Centers Set Protocol for Supporting Coronavirus Patients

Published: 05/13/2020 on Edwardsville Inetlligencer

By Scott Marion | Excerpted from original version.

EDWARDSVILLE – Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are at high risk for COVID-19, but the concerns for spreading the virus become even greater when residents must leave the facilities for essential medical treatment.

Dialysis is the most common treatment that nursing home residents receive on an outpatient basis, and both nursing homes and dialysis centers are taking extra precautions to keep those residents separated from the public, especially if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or live in a facility that has had outbreaks of the virus.

“What’s happening with dialysis patients is that if they are suspected of having COVID-19, they have a dialysis center set aside so they wouldn’t be going to a regular dialysis center,” said Dr. Paul Malcharek, Internal medicine physician and associate medical director at HSHS Medical Group in Maryville. “If they are diagnosed with COVID-19, there is a different dialysis center that is set aside for them.”

People on dialysis can have weaker immune systems, making it harder to fight infections. However, kidney patients need to continue with their regularly scheduled dialysis treatments and to take necessary precautions as recommended by their healthcare team.

At least one local nursing facility, BRIA of Belleville, offers its own dialysis program through Dialyze Direct.

Jonathan Paull, general counselor and chief compliance officer for Dialyze Direct, feels that in-house dialysis is one more way to keep nursing facility residents safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Geriatric patients that reside in nursing facilities are the most at-risk population in our country, and among the most at-risk in that subset are the nursing facility dialysis patients,” Paull said. “They need dialysis to survive and if their nursing facility doesn’t offer dialysis care on-site, those patients will need to go to the outpatient dialysis center three times a week.

“That means those patients are mixing with other patients from other areas at the outpatient dialysis center and then going back to their nursing facility, and that increases the risk of exposure and transmission.” In-house dialysis, on the other hand, takes away some of the uncertainty for patients who are nervous about leaving the nursing facility.

“It allows BRIA of Belleville to have a stronger quarantine in their facility and they’re reducing who is going out and who is coming back in,” Paull said. “It also serves as a great option for hospitals to discharge patients in the BRIA of Belleville facility. It provides the patient with a more comfortable setting and it also frees up hospital beds that might be needed for other patients.”

Stephanie Birch, administrator of BRIA of Belleville, believes that in-house dialysis has proved its value during the pandemic.