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Dialysis patients denied transportation

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by Jolene Toves

Guam - Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death on Guam and in many instances patients with diabetes must undergo dialysis treatment. But KUAM News has learned that transportation services for dialysis patients has been cut by Noridian a company contracted with Region IX. It has been reported they are denying claims for ambulatory patients.

73-year old Virgilio Antonio's wife Efigene Antonio has been on dialysis for the last five years. Her nerves from the waist down are dead leaving her bed ridden for the last three years.

"Right now everything is something like abnormal she's very weak and the only thing she's still okay because of 24 hours for maintenance feeding cleaning you have to be on her side for 24 hours," he said.

Receiving dialysis three times a week four hours a day taking her to and from her treatments is a daunting task hard not only on Efigene but on Virgilio as well. The only thing that has made life a little easier is the services provided by emergency medical transport company Guam Medical Transport. The services provided by EMS personnel is life saving and for Efigene has at least once brought her back to life when complications during her dialysis treatment left her unconscious and not breathing.

But unfortunately for dialysis patients such as her, GMT president Cliff Shoemaker says transport services to ambulatory dialysis patients under Medicaid will no longer be provided for instead they must be on a ventilator and non-ambulatory. Despite being bed ridden Efigene is not on a respirator and her services have been cut off but thankfully she is one of the select few that GMT has committed to continue to transport.

However patients like John Salas must now find other means of transportation. He told KUAM News, "I started the transport last November and I had just gotten out of the hospital and I met the GMT people and they said that they would be able to transport me so I got my certification from Dr. Safa and Tiffany, who are the medical staff for the Renal Center."

Under the Medicare guidelines Salas had met the criteria for transport but the certification from his physician and the renal center were still not enough. "But last Saturday I got a letter from GMT saying congratulations we are canceling your benefits because according to the handler for Medicare which is a company called Noridian they said I no longer qualify because I am ambulatory but yet I still need help getting up that is where the medical transport helped," he recalled. "When I first started I couldn't stay awake and when I was picked up the ambulance crew would bring me to my house they had all the medicals they were certified EMTs, now my wife brings me home and she is not an EMT - she's a teacher and what would happen if there was a cause for me to need help? C'est la vie."

With this decision handed down from Noridian, dialysis patients across the board are left wondering what will happen should an emergency arise.

We should note that Governor Eddie Calvo has met with Region IX Medicaid in hopes of correcting the situation. 
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