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Unions Target Local Kidney Dialysis Centers

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Two companies that provide outpatient kidney dialysis in the Buffalo area are involved in labor disputes. Union leaders say these firms are more concerned about creating profits than providing quality care for patients.

Late last week, CWA Local 1168 staged an informational picket outside Renal Care of Buffalo in West Seneca. And a few days before that, registered nurses protested outside New York Dialysis Management in Tonawanda.

The immediate dispute is over new contracts for the employees their unions represents. But Local 1168 President Patricia DeVinney says there are larger issues. Out-of-town companies run these local dialysis centers -- companies that Devinney says are putting profits ahead of patient care.

"These corporations are really shadow corporations because there are not supposed to be for-profit dialysis centers in New York," DeVinney said. "Physicians are listed as the official owners of these centers. But these companies completely run them. Everything is about these corporations."

Renal Care of Buffalo is managed by DaVita, the nation's second largest dialysis company. The CWA says Davita wants to bust the union, claiming the company is spending whatever is necessary to get its way. But Davita spokesman Juan Cortinas says all the company is seeking is flexibility in the management of employees.

"We invest heavily in the training and education of our employees," Cortinas said. "But foremost in our minds is that our patients receive the best outcomes in their treatments."

On its web page, DaVita says it wants to be the provider, partner and employer of choice. The company emphasizes the concept of team -- touting one for all and all for one. But Patricia Divinney says based on her dealings with the company, that should be changed to "all for one and none for us."