Letter: BMC's dialysis unit meets high standards

To the editor:

This is written in response to Stephen Radin's letter regarding the Berkshire Medical Center's dialysis unit ("A first-hand look at understaffed BMC," Eagle, Oct. 26). We are pleased to know that the "amenities and care" he receives at BMC are better than his experiences obtaining dialysis elsewhere. In addition, we appreciate Mr. Radin's complimentary observations about the replacement nurses who cared for our patients during the strike.

However, Mr. Radin also claimed that our facility is understaffed, that nurses must ask permission to use the bathroom and that they are too busy to take lunch breaks. Massachusetts requires a 1-to-3 ratio of caregiver to patients for all dialysis units. At BMC, we routinely exceed this ratio, and far exceed the ratios at large, national dialysis organizations. In addition, we have a higher percentage of RNs and LPNs in the unit, as compared with state and national dialysis facilities.

Our rich mix of RNs, LPNs and certified renal technicians, plus the extraordinary skill level of our team, ensures that our patients receive the personalized and compassionate care they deserve. It is also among the reasons why our quality measures are consistently strong.

According to the most recent data from Dialysis Facility Compare (2012 to 2015), when BMC is compared to U.S. dialysis facilities, 31 people in our community survived who would have died, eight patients received kidney transplants who would not have, and 40 less patients in our community were hospitalized for complications of kidney disease in 2015. These are among the benefits of high-quality care for our patients.

Our staffing model also supports bathroom and lunch breaks for our staff. What Mr. Radin observed as caregivers asking permission to leave the treatment floor is more likely nurses and caregivers communicating effectively with their colleagues to ensure their patients' needs were met during breaks. Not too long ago, we concluded a study to evaluate dialysis models of care. In the process, we learned that BMC is one of only four hospitals in the state to provide on-site dialysis. In fact, most U.S. hospitals have chosen to turn this care over to large national dialysis organizations because reimbursement rates barely cover the costs of providing the care our patients require. Yet, we feel strongly that our dialysis patients should have easy access to the best care possible. For this reason, BMC chose to not only continue providing dialysis, but to invest many millions of dollars to expand this service.

Last year, we opened a first-ever renal dialysis unit at the North Adams Campus of BMC. Before the end of this year, BMC will offer three state-of-the-art dialysis units in North, Central and South Berkshire so that all Berkshire county resident and visitors who need this life-prolonging care will have it, as close to their homes as possible.

Mr Radin's final criticism related to BMC's perceived finances; however it is exactly BMC's financial stability that enables us to invest in renal dialysis and other kinds of necessary services where the cost of care is more than what we are paid to provide it. We are very proud of how well we care for dialysis patients.

Kim Obanhein, RN, BSN ,

Dr. David Henner,


Obanhein is the vice president of ambulatory services for BMC and Dr. Henner is a nephrologist and medical director for BMC's Dialysis Services.


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