Dialysis center grapples with certification problems

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Carol Malecki has been doing this same routine for almost six years: Three days a week she goes to DaVita Dialysis Center in Topeka. It’s a 20 minute drive away from her home where her life depends on it – after arthritis medicine damaged her kidneys.

“It’s a monotonous, boring process,” she says. “It controls your life but the alternative is much worse.”

So when a new dialysis center went up at SW 37th and Wanamaker, right next to her home, she was ecstatic.

“Oh, I was so excited and so was everyone over at dialysis.”

But after nearly two years of waiting, the new facility hasn’t opened its doors to more than a single patient.

“It seems like it’s just never going to open up and it’s so ridiculous because it’s a brand new, beautiful building and all the latest equipment is in there.”

The building was opened August of 2015 but must have federal certification to open to more than one Medicare patient. And after 16 months of trying to get certified, the state’s health department hasn’t gotten around to giving it the green light. That’s because surveys can only be done through the state.

“That is not normal,” says Facility Administrator Erin Hinrichson. “That is not normal for what we are used to in Kansas. What we were used to was three to six months […] to getting new facilities open.”

The state’s three surveyors work on a priority system:

  • First Tier- Complaints.
  • Second Tier – Recertifications.
  • Third Tier – New Facilities.

DaVita’s new facility is stuck in limbo in the third tier. The top two tiers had KDHE surveyors involved in multiple cases. The state must finish all of their tier one and two work before moving on to tier three.

Because of all the work, the facility might not get any attention until September and certification is not a guarantee.

DaVita is getting ready to submit a second request to move up in priority. The request contains letters from faculty and staff to CMS.

“Opening this place is important for our patients,” says Hinrichson. It’s better access to them and our patients are our priority. If we can give them a better travel schedule, we can give them a better schedule, cut their travel time in half, cut their costs in half. It’s just an all-around better option for them.”

The DaVita center off Mulvane is almost to capacity with 185 patients. There are 40 people on the wait list for the new facility.

The new building could lighten the load and take in 144 patients a week.

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