Grady says it will pay to fly dialysis patients to their home country

Critics say clinic's closing is elaborate way to get rid of patients

Grady Memorial Hospital is offering to relocate about 60 outpatient dialysis patients to other states or send them back to their home country as the hospital prepares to close the dialysis unit Sunday.

Grady officials say they are willing to spend thousands of dollars to help relocate each patient and their family, including plane tickets, moving expenses and rent security fees.

“We’re committed to ensuring that every patient has a place for care, and every patient gets the right medical care,” said Grady spokesman Matt Gove.

Grady officials said they plan to close the outpatient dialysis unit because the clinic is old, uses outdated equipment and has lost $2 million to $4 million a year in recent years.

The problem is that about 60 of the clinic’s 90 patients are undocumented immigrants, who cannot collect government aid such as Medicaid and for whom the hospital cannot find another local medical provider.

Advocates for these patients have blasted the plan as an elaborate way to dump them and make them someone else’s problem.

The advocates say these patients have had about a month to make their relocation decisions. The patients are worried about the quality of care, and about moving family members, leaving others behind, finding work and upsetting the lives they’ve established in the metro area.

They also say Grady officials are scaring them about their prospects should they stay.

“This is the most ridiculous proposal for health care one could imagine,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald, a leader of the patient advocacy group the Grady Coalition. “Totally unacceptable.”

Several advocates say they plan to protest the plan at today’s meeting of the Grady corporate board.