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Plan to Expand Kidney Treatment Options Expected to Reach Full Senate in March

Committee of Health, Hospitals, and Human Services Chairman Sen. Ray Fonsecasays he hopes the kidney center expansion bill will be approved by late March. (Photo courtesy the V.I. Legislature website)
Committee of Health, Hospitals, and Human Services Chairman Sen. Ray Fonseca says he hopes the kidney center expansion bill will be approved by late March. (Photo courtesy the V.I. Legislature website)

Virgin Islands residents needing kidney dialysis treatment to maintain their health are expected to benefit from an expansion of services from the Health Department. For more than a year, Health officials have waged a court battle to make sure enough resources were available through an arrangement with a private healthcare provider.

A public official familiar with the outcome of that struggle recently described what appears to be a win-win deal between Health and Healthquest, LLC.  According to Sen. Ray Fonseca, government health facilities will increase the number of available dialysis chairs on St. Thomas and St. Croix to cover the 219 service-dependent patients.

Health officials have also agreed to pay Healthquest $910,000 for services provided to patients referred to them by public hospitals for dialysis services.

Documents filed in Superior Court say Health took action after Healthquest owner and operator Dr. Walter Gardiner declared he would close his treatment centers sometime in 2023.

Experts say those suffering from kidney failure who are dialysis dependent undergo an average of three treatments lasting four-to-six hours weekly. Where treatments are not available, those patients face the risk of further kidney damage or death.

There are currently 103 patients on referral to private centers operated by Healthquest on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Fonseca serves as the chairman of the 35th Legislature’s Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services. Speaking to a reporter at a Cruz Bay health fair on Friday, Fonseca said he hopes the body will approve the deal during its next full session in late March.

Once approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the dialysis center at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas will add 51 dialysis chairs. On St. Croix, the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital will add 53 chairs and its capacity to treat 93 patients.

He added that if Healthquest decides to continue to operate as a private-care provider their inventory of treatment chairs will only increase the territory’s overall capacity to serve those in critical need of care.

The overall cost of expansion is expected to reach $4.9 million.

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