Dialysis center planned for Milton-Freewater

Demand for people who need treatment has outpaced the Valley's supply of services.

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- The need for dialysis treatment in the Walla Walla Valley has filled available spots in Walla Walla and Fresenius Medical Care is moving toward the start of construction of another center.

The Massachussets-based company, which bills itself as the world's leading company in renal therapy, has long operated a clinic at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla. Many of those patients, however, travel the 11 or so miles from Milton-Freewater to receive kidney dialysis three days a week for four-plus hours at a time, said Ann Sullivan, area manager for Fresenius. "Which does not seem like a lot unless you're sick."

Fresenius is "patient-oriented" and tries to treat people who need regular dialysis as close to home as possible, Sullivan said this morning. "We have huge growth right now, the baby boomers are coming on board with diabetes and hypertension."

People in general are living longer and living with disease in an unprecedented way, she explained. "And the consequence of these diseases is renal failure."

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the medical condition occurs when the kidneys can no longer adequately filter toxins and waste products from the blood. In taking the place of healthy kidneys, dialysis removes waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body, keeping the body in balance.

While many Fresenius patients hope for a kidney transplant, the waiting list is "bad," Sullivan said. "You can be on the transplant list for a long, long time."

The Milton-Freewater dialysis center, will serve a roster of about 18 patients and employ a staff of four to seven, including a clinical manager, nurse and patient-care technicians who must undergo "intensive training," she said.

The new building, to be at 1213 S. Main St., is practical yet patient-centric, "very inviting," including a portico that allows patients to exit vehicles out of inclement weather, Sullivan noted.

With parking space, the project will stretch along the whole block, city officials said. Construction is expected to begin in May and be finished in October and will be facilitated by The Embree Group of Texas. Subcontractors will be hired locally, said Dave Fremmer of Embree.

"We really worked with the city to incorporate their desires. It's in a floodplain but we feel confident the city is going to take care of that," Fremmer said Tuesday.

"I am thrilled with the new member of our business community," said Linda Hall, Milton-Freewater city manager. "We believe this is a perfect location for the business. This is just the start of many great improvements coming to Milton-Freewater with our low-cost utilities and user-friendly development codes."

Fresenius will develop the center's theme mindful of the agricultural nature of the town, Sullivan said. "But it won't be green. I don't even know if it will have a frog."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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