HONOLULU — A surge in patients and a shortage of dialysis clinics has Hawaii’s two dialysis operators planning to open as many as six new clinics annually over the next five years.

The new clinics would help handle the 700 new dialysis patients a year in the state — but not until the facilities are certified by the state Department of Health and federal authorities, a process that can take up to three years.

Without certification, the clinics could not get reimbursed for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients, which comprise as much as 85 percent of the dialysis population, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

“Because we have 168,000 Hawaii residents with chronic kidney disease and every year Hawaii has 700 more dialysis patients . we have an urgency,” said state Rep. John Mizuno, a Kalihi Valley Democrat and chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

The state has more than 30 dialysis clinics, four of which are still awaiting certification.

Dialysis is a lifesaving treatment that filters waste, excess fluid and toxins from the blood of patients with failing kidneys. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the cause of kidney failure in more than 80 percent of people in Hawaii afflicted with the condition.

The number of Hawaiians who need dialysis has grown to nearly 4,000 from roughly 3,300 in 2014 and 2,300 in 2006, according to the Western Pacific Renal Network.

Delays are causing patients covered by Medicare to instead get treatments at emergency rooms, which cost three to four times more than a dialysis clinic, Mizuno said.

“New clinics with new equipment needlessly stand idle, not being able to serve thousands of dialysis patients in Hawaii, while patients scurry to clinics located many miles away,” Mizuno said in a statement last week to mark the opening of a new Liberty Dialysis center in Mililani. “The state must expedite the review and certification process.”

The Department of Health has blamed certification delays on a lack of resources.

Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said making the process more timely and efficient is a priority.

While Liberty Dialysis opened Thursday in Mililani, the clinic is not yet certified to take patients. Two others recently built in Salt Lake and Ala Moana treat only private-pay patients as the company awaits certification to treat Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

Another facility, operated by U.S. Renal, is also awaiting certification.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com