Dialysis center opening marks new service in medical community
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Dozens of people gathered at the new dialysis center on Medical Drive during the Open House held Thursday. (Left to right) Owners Mary Ann O'Neal and husband Dr. Don O'Neal, previous land owner Martha K. Chapman, owner Gary Stokes, and previous land owners Joe and Janet Wheeler chat about the project and how well it all came together.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

July 21, 2006 -- The profile of Sulphur Springs' medical community received another boost Thursday with the opening of Sulphur Springs Dialysis Center at 1401 Medical Drive, which will provide care for patients with chronic kidney problems in the Northeast Texas region.

For more than 85 Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County residents who have had to travel three days a week for the four-hour procedure, the new center could be the answer to many prayers, according to Dr. Don O'Neal of North Campus Development.

Dr. O'Neal called the Sulphur Springs Dialysis Center the most up-to-date facility of its type in the area.

The new renal care facility has the capability to handle up to 32 dialysis patients in two shifts each day.

For the patients who undergo the blood-cleaning procedure, the center is designed to provide a relaxing atmosphere that includes flat-screen televisions.

The center is owned by Fresenius Medical Care, the largest outpatient provider of dialysis in the country. With the recent acquisition of Renal Care Group, the company has about 1,500 clinics, according to Donna Painter, regional vice-president for Fresenius.

"Renal Care Group began this project and they were acquired by Fresenius at the end of March," Painter explained. "It is a project that has been two years in the making to get everything to come together so this clinic could be here."

For many local patients, the driving time of as much as an hour each way to previously get to a dialysis center only added to the time required for each treatment.

"We are very excited about it because our dialysis patients have to come three times a week, every week, and spend about four hours on the machine," she said. "We are also very excited for the patients who live here that will not have to be driving to Paris or elsewhere."

Donna Liston, area manager for Fresenius, said the staff at Sulphur Springs Dialysis will include three registered nurses, one of whom will serve as facility manager, two licensed vocational nurses and three patient care technicians, along with one technical person who will manage the center's water treatment facility.

"We expect to have about 30 patients to open our doors with," Liston said. 

On Wednesday, the day before the formal opening of the regional dialysis center, it underwent the final state inspection required for licensing.

"From this point on, we need to work to get these patients admitted," Painter said. "There is a lot involved with the admission process in transferring patients over, so it is not like tomorrow all the patients will come, and as patients are added, the facility will continue to grow."

On Friday, the center was providing services for its first patient and plans to begin utilizing the full capacity of the center on Monday.

Dr. O'Neal, who has had a hands-on role in the construction of the dialysis center, called the new center "really amazing."

"It is a landmark unit for Sulphur Springs," he said. "It has been a long time in the coming, but it has turned out to be just a stellar facility."

O'Neal said the medical community was excited about having the dialysis center in Sulphur Springs as well as the patients who will use the facility and their families.

Painter said the response from Sulphur Springs for the opening of the dialysis center was overwhelming.

"From the patients, the community and physicians, this has been awesome," she said. "This is the greatest turnout we have had in any of the units we have opened and I think that speaks lots for the community wanting us here."

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