Originally created 07/24/99

Dialysis service consolidates facilities



The world's biggest provider of dialysis service is strengthening its position in the metro Augusta market with a $2 million facility near Columbia Augusta Medical Center.

Fresenius Medical Care, which operates eight centers in Augusta and surrounding cities under various names, is developing an 8,000-square-foot building off Medical Center Drive.

The project allows the German-owned company to consolidate two smaller nearby offices into a single facility serving the west Augusta market.

"We need to be close to the hospital for the patients who need that," said Jeane Klozer-Reese, Fresenius area administrator.

The company will lease the building from Augusta-based developers Sherman & Hemstreet Real Estate.

Its cost, $1.3 million minus installed medical equipment, is attributed to features such as its structural steel construction and water purification system.

"The plumbing is extensive, more than the normal office building," said D. Hugh Connolly, president of Sherman & Hemstreet.

Dialysis clinics are for people whose kidneys do not process waste properly. Dialysis machines remove, purify and re-inject a patient's blood.

The three- to six-hour process must be repeated three times per week until a donor kidney is found for transplant.

"This is their life, you might as well say," Ms. Klozer-Reese said.

The finished building will have room for 21 machines and will operate 18 hours daily.

Ms. Klozer-Reese said four more centers are "on the drawing board" but declined to divulge specifics. Fresenius operates clinics in Thomson, Millen and Swainsboro.

Dialysis centers, like home health providers and other specialty companies, have consolidated and proliferated in recent years.

In Augusta, only one dialysis network, Park West, is independently owned.

The rest are controlled by Sweden's Gambro AB, the No. 2 dialysis provider with $2.3 billion in annual revenues, and California-based companies Total Renal Care and Vivra Inc.

Fresenius, which operates in 100 countries and posted earnings of $3.5 billion last year, started as a maker of dialysis equipment before becoming an integrated service provider. It also operates LifeChem clinical laboratories.

Fresenius entered the Augusta market in the mid-1990s by purchasing the network of dialysis centers operated by National Medical Care.

National Medical Care acquired the clinics in 1988 from the original founders, local nephrologists Dr. George Van Giesen and Dr. George Spooner.

Damon Cline covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3486.