Long wait to open Topeka dialysis clinic nearing end

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - After nearly three years, a new dialysis facility in southwest Topeka could finally be opening its doors to patients.

"We are super excited," said Erin Hinrichsen, group facility administrator for DaVita in Topeka.

In October 2015, DaVita applied for the final survey required in order for the facility at SW 37th and Wanamaker to take Medicare patients, which encompasses nearly all people on dialysis.

With no response, in January 2016, DaVita filed paperwork to have the facility classified higher priority as a medical necessity. The request was denied, and, in August 2016, the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment informed DaVita the survey wouldn't happen until at least September 2017.

Today, the parking lot still sits empty. KDHE has blamed staffing shortages and a federal tier system that puts new facilities at lowest priority.

But last week, KDHE informed DaVita the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will contract outside help to do the final surveys on 11 of the 12 dialysis facilities that have been waiting. A KDHE spokesperson told 13 NEWS all those surveys will be done by the end of September.

It's welcome news for Hinrichsen.

"This is about our patients and their quality of life," she said. "Our patients travel anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get here. It's taking away from their family time, from their work, their education."

In addition, Hinrishsen said the numbers of people needing dialysis continue to increase. Their current Topeka facility can accommodate them, but not necessarily at the time they prefer, so many patients are on a waiting list for a slot that better fits with their lifestyle.

While the action by CMS addresses the immediate backlog, federal legislation signed Friday as part of the budget deal may keep similar situations from happening in the future. Introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins and Sen. Pat Roberts, it will allow independent accreditation for dialysis facilities.

"KDHE is pleased that this legislation was successfully passed and looks forward to alleviated wait times for dialysis facilities," KDHE communications director Gerald Kratochvil told 13 NEWS.

"There is relief. We could not be happier," Hinrishsen said. "Our patients are going to be ecstatic. It's good to see an end, a result for our patients."

DaVita also has clinics waiting to open in Lawrence and Manhattan that will be helped by the CMS action.