Capitola's Satellite Dialysis fills need for vital
By JONDI GUMZ - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 08/04/2012 04:23:32 PM PDT
CAPITOLA - The demand for dialysis to treat kidney failure is growing in Santa Cruz County.
Satellite Dialysis moved from 2128 Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz and opened in Capitola in March,
remodeling a former Hollywood Video at 3801 Clares St. that sat empty for two years due to the
downturn of the economy.
The facility started with 20 stations in operation. It filled up so fast that Satellite Healthcare, a
San Jose nonprofit that operates 34 dialysis centers, requested and secured state approval to add
four more stations, The new stations will go into service once additional staffers are hired.
Satellite Dialysis of Capitola, which employs 20 people, is open 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Patients
come in three times a week for life-saving treatments that last four hours.
"We run three shifts," said Capitola clinic manager Robynn Collins, a registered nurse. "My
chairs don't stay empty for very long."She said Satellite's Watsonville center, which has 21
chairs, is full. Dr. Surinder Kumar, medical director for the two county locations, said Satellite
plans to offer overnight treatment in Watsonville starting in September.
"The increase in demand is probably due to the increase in incidence of diabetes," said Martha
Quintana, a nurse at the Diabetes Health Center in Watsonville.
Health experts had hoped better treatments for diabetes would mean less kidney disease
requiring dialysis and there have been improvements in reducing complications, "but still not
enough," Quintana said.
More than 7,100 people in Santa Cruz County have diabetes, according to estimates calculated in
2009 by the California Diabetes Program. The 2009 figures are the latest numbers available.
Collins said she has 105 patients in Capitola. The clinic capacity is 144. The location near the
Capitola Mall with Target and Trader Joe's close by is proving popular with patients and their
"Dialysis takes so much of their time, it's great to have all these conveniences available," Collins
said. "Family members have time to shop." The mild weather and proximity to the beach are
People undergo dialysis after they have lost 85 to 90 percent of their kidney function, so they
can't skip treatment, even when they are traveling.
"We have snowbirds," Collins said. "We have people coming year after year for summer
The new facility is spacious, and patients have more privacy. At each station, there is a large-
screen television for each patient, who has earphones and can choose any of more than 600
channels piped in by Dish Network.
The patient sits in a reclining chair while a machine cleans their blood, a job their kidneys have
trouble doing. One set of tubes carries the blood away into a dialyzer that filters out wastes, and
another set of tubes carries clean blood back into the body.
Medicare pays 80 percent of the cost of dialysis; the patient pays 20 percent. Collins said the
reverse osmosis system uses 3,000 gallons of water a day.
The National Kidney Foundation offers a free service, Kidney Early Evaluation Program, in
Watsonville once a year.
Out of 60 people screened, about 20 to 30 are referred to their primary doctor, according to
Kumar."You have to modify your diet as kidney function declines," he said.
He recalled when a third of the patients came to his attention in the emergency room. He had to
tell them, "You need dialysis."
"Now that number has declined to 15 percent in California due to early detection and treatment,"
A native of India who now lives in Aptos, Kumar chose nephrology as his specialty not long
after he earned his medical degree in 1969."If the kidney fails, you can go on an artificial
kidney," he said. "I saw this as exciting."
He's seen better machines and better filters but the biggest improvement came when scientists
found a way to help patients who were anemic, not making enough red blood cells.
They found erythropoietin would stimulate production of red blood cells, and instead of a patient
needing a transfusion of 200 units of blood, five or six units would suffice. "I thought that was a
great breakthrough," Kumar said.
Another advance involves drugs such as cyclosporin that can reduce the likelihood of a kidney
Lee Walters, 54, owner of the Stockton Bridge Grille restaurant in Capitola, is on dialysis while
awaiting a third kidney transplant.
The new treatment facility in Capitola "has done wonders for employee and patient morale," he
said. Each of his transplants lasted about eight years. "It's disappointing when you lose a
transplant," he said. "I've been fortunate I had transplants. I've been able to live a fairly normal
life." He has two sisters being tested to see if they are a match."Maybe the third time will be the
charm," he said.
AT A GLANCE
Satellite Dialysis of Capitola
OWNER: Satellite Healthcare, founded in 1973 by Dr. Norman Coplon
ADDRESS: 3801 Clares St., Capitola