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Hospital announces new dialysis partnership

El Camino will collaborate with Satellite Healthcare for kidney treatment

Citing the need to keep up with a changing medical services market, El Camino Hospital's board of directors voted last week to merge its dialysis program with a San Jose-based organization that specializes in the blood-cleansing procedure.

At its Oct. 12 public meeting the board voted unanimously to enter into a long-term collaboration with Satellite Healthcare, which operates more than 20 dialysis centers all over the Bay Area.

Dialysis is a procedure that cleanses the blood via mechanical means and is necessary for patients with kidney failure and other forms of kidney disease or injury.

"Hospitals in our own region and across the country are making the choice to leave dialysis programs behind, because they can't compete with the large national competitors," said Cal James, chief of strategy and business at El Camino.

Until the board's vote, one such national competitor had been Satellite. The nonprofit healthcare organization has about 50 dialysis centers nationwide, and, according to James and other hospital officials, Satellite has more up-to-date equipment and can provide dialysis services at lower rates and with greater flexibility than El Camino can.

"As a community hospital, we want to continue offering a full range of services to our patients," said Judy Twitchell, an El Camino spokeswoman. "And this is a way that we can continue to do that."

Both the hospital and Satellite will be bringing assets to the table in the new partnership, Twitchell said. El Camino will give Satellite access to its patient base, facilities and will purchase some new equipment, such as chairs; Satellite has newer dialysis equipment and a state-of-the-art patient information system that it will bring to the hospital's current dialysis treatment centers in Mountain View and San Jose, and to a new center El Camino plans to open up near its Los Gatos campus.

"We are excited by the opportunity to support El Camino Hospital, which shares our commitment to innovation and to providing excellent, affordable patient care for the local community, in operating its dialysis program," Mark Burke, president and CEO of Satellite, said in an El Camino press release.

Under the collaboration, Satellite will provide the hospital with its "paperless clinical information system and certain 'back-office' administrative services," according to the press release.

No jobs will be cut as a result of the partnership, Twitchell said, and patients will receive the same quality of care they are used to, perhaps even noticing an improvement. In the future, after the Los Gatos site is opened, the hospital may hire personnel to run the clinic.

Malcom White, a Palo Alto resident who undergoes dialysis regularly at a Satellite center in Redwood City, told the Voice he is very satisfied with the organization.

"I have nothing but good things to say," White said, noting that the Redwood City center was very responsive and accommodating -- allowing him to undergo dialysis overnight so that he can go throughout his day without stopping for a treatment.

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