When Kidneys Fail Newly Opened Springfield Dialysis Center Meets A Growing Need In Region

With kidney disease on the rise across America and in Massachusetts, Dr. Balaji Padmanabhan wants to give dialysis patients more choice.
That’s one of the driving forces behind Springfield Dialysis Center, which Padmanabhan and his partner, Dr. Jonathan Slater, opened recently on Liberty Street in Springfield.
The center brings the total of outpatient dialysis services in Greater Springfield to nine — but with kidney disease, and the factors contributing to it, on the rise, it’s tough for the medical community to keep pace, Padmanabhan said.

“There is a need for more services because of the higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure, which contribute to kidney disease,” said the man co-workers call “Dr. Pad.” But he and Slater — and American Renal Associates, the Danvers, Mass. dialysis company with whom the center is affiliated — didn’t want to create just another choice for patients; they wanted to develop a better one.

“One of our goals was to give personalized care to the patients,” Padmanabhan told The Healthcare News. “It’s very difficult for people to sit in one place for four hours. We wanted to make it as comfortable as possible.”

Cutting-edge Service

Comfort isn’t the first word one thinks of when dialysis comes to mind, and that’s why Springfield Dialysis Center places a premium on putting patients at ease. Every patient may sit in a contoured chair with lumbar back support, and can spend the four-hour session using a personal color TV with a VCR and DVD player.
Still, these comforts would be only window dressing if the medical care was not top-quality, said Howard Bilow, executive vice president of corporate development for American Renal Associates.

“The machines we have here are the latest technology, so what we’re offering is really a combination of the dialysis machines and all the backroom support,” Bilow said. “If you’re a patient spending money on the facility, that combination of medical technology and a comfortable environment is really important, and that’s why we’ve tried to do both.

“We also have preventative maintenance programs set up to make sure people get their treatments set up on time and get good, quality care,” he added.
Compliance is a key issue, Bilow explained, especially when the capacity of area renal services still needs to be increased to keep up with demand. In short, it’s easy to become frustrated by services that don’t meet one’s ideal schedule.

“Opening another facility adds capacity to the system,” he said, noting that many residents will not have to drive as far for the three-times-weekly treatments, while others will find their preferred schedules more readily accommodated.

“This gives patients a greater choice in treatment times. Dialysis patients are usually treated on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. They come in at a specific time each day and use the same chair. But if there’s not enough capacity, the schedule is less flexible, and they may be getting only evening slots when they want days, or vice versa. This new facility provides more flexibility and availability here in Springfield.”

Growing Problem

Greater Springfield isn’t alone in its need for more renal services. According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), more than 20 million Americans — or one in every nine adults — have chronic kidney disease, while another 20 million are considered at increased risk. Even more seriously, more than 378,000 Americans suffer from chronic kidney failure and need an artificial kidney machine to stay alive.

Dialysis, which is a treatment that provides some of the functions of healthy kidneys, is needed when a patient’s own kidneys can no longer take care of the body’s needs. Dialysis is required during end-stage kidney failure, usually by the time 85{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} to 90{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of kidney function is lost.

According to the NKF, dialysis removes waste, salt, and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body; keeps a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood, such as potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate; and helps to control blood pressure.

There are two types of dialysis — hemodialysis, which uses an artificial kidney to remove waste and extra chemicals and fluid from the blood; and peritoneal dialysis, in which the blood is cleaned inside the body, a procedure that can be done at home.

“Our facility offers both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, using state-of-the-art technology,” Padmanabhan said; a third nephrologist at the center, Dr. Krishnan Babu, specializes in the latter.

It all adds up to a new service that’s meeting a distinct need in Western Mass.

“With kidney disease increasing in prevalence across the nation and in Massachusetts,” Bilow said, “this is a plus for Springfield.”

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