1/27/22 - Kidney Care Crisis: Nephrology Leaders Urge Biden Administration to Make Kidney Patients a Priority as Fallout from COVID-19 Worsens
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Contact: Janet D'Alesandro
Kidney Care Crisis
Nephrology leaders urge Biden administration to make kidney patients a priority as fallout from COVID-19 worsens.
PITMAN, NJ – The ripple effects of COVID-19 have put severe stress on kidney care facilities across the country, endangering dialysis patients who must have continuous and reliable care to stay alive.
Alarmed by the rapidly worsening situation, the American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA), the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), and the Renal Healthcare Association (RHA) on January 26 sent a letter to Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Jeffrey Zients, the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, urging immediate action.
“Shortages in staff, supplies, and dialysis shifts for COVID-19 positive patients are causing severe stress in many parts of the country—resulting in facility closures, shortened treatment times, and backlogs in moving patients among dialysis, hospitals, and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs),” the organizations write. “These interruptions are having devastating impacts on dialysis patients, who rely on the continuity and stability of facilities that provide a treatment that patients cannot live without. Meanwhile, Omicron continues to spread among dialysis patients and staff, causing serious illness and exacerbating shortages and strain. “
Kidney disease, as well as other comorbidities suffered by many kidney patients, make them more likely to die from COVID-19, according to the letter. Deaths among dialysis patients were 18% higher in 2020 than in 2019, and during the winter 2020 wave, weekly deaths due to COVID-19 peaked at nearly 20%.
“Staffing and the necessary dialysis supplies, both of which are hard to come by, remain at critical levels,” ANNA President David Walz, MBA, BSN, RN, CNN, FACHE, said. “Nephrology nurses are crucial in delivering high-quality kidney care to people with kidney issues. Nephrology nurses on the frontlines are reporting more serious cases than they’ve ever seen, and care delivery is strained to the breaking point.”
Call to Action
To address the staffing and supply shortages, the nephrology organizations advise the Biden Administration to:
- Alleviate supply crises at dialysis facilities due to supply chain challenges/breakdowns and staff shortages.
- Distribute high-level, government-approved face masks to dialysis facilities.
- Issue clarification regarding Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policies related to the use of pre-filled saline syringes and saline protocols.
- Encourage state and federal governments to allow reciprocity for nurses to allow for interstate practice, regardless of whether the state is a compact state, during this acute crisis.
- Urge the Food and Drug Administration to recognize waning immunity in vaccinated people with kidney failure and ensure treatments approved through Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the immunocompromised include people with kidney failure.
- Prioritize dialysis patients and staff for access to COVID-19 therapeutics.
“The U.S. must do everything in its power to prepare for future surges in COVID-19 cases and prevent needless deaths among our most vulnerable citizens,” the letter states. “ANNA, ASN, NKF, and RHA stand ready to partner with you, your colleagues, policymakers, and other stakeholders in service of this goal.”
The American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA) is a professional nursing association comprising more than 8,300 nephrology nurses. ANNA improves members' lives through education, advocacy, networking, and science.