Sovereign Valentine and his wife, Jessica, wait for a dialysis machine to filter his blood in Missoula. Before finding a dialysis clinic in their insurance network, the Valentines were charged more than $500,000 for 14 weeks of the treatment.

About 30 million U.S. adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers For Disease Control, and it’s the ninth leading cause of death in this country.

It’s a growing problem, and now Community Medical Center has transformed an old jewelry showroom on Reserve Street into a 6,500-square-foot dialysis center that will drastically increase the capacity for treatment in western Montana.

“Chronic kidney disease is a very common problem in the United States in general and of course we’re not unique and (in the Missoula area) we have the same problem and prevalence of chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney disease in which the kidneys fail,” explained Dr. Shahid Chaudhary,  a nephrologist and the medical director of the new facility.

Located at 1325 S. Reserve St., the new center has 10 stations and can accommodate 60 patients a week. It will offer three modes of dialysis: in-center hemodialysis (where blood is pumped out of the body and through an artificial kidney machine); in-home hemodialysis and in-home peritoneal dialysis training (where the inside of a patient’s own belly acts as a natural filter).

Chaudhary said diabetes and obesity are common causes of kidney disease. The new center will alleviate the waiting list that many Missoula patients had to endure to see a kidney doctor, he noted.

"It will also offer a more convenient location for those living on this side of town or in the Bitterroot Valley," he said.

Community Medical Center Dialysis is a joint venture between the for-profit hospital and the largest nonprofit dialysis provider in the U.S., a company called Dialysis Clinic Inc (DCI).

“Our partnership affords us the opportunity to provide high-quality kidney care to the community,” said DCI area operations director Kevin Donahue.

Sovereign Valentine is the center’s first patient. He rose to fame when Kaiser Health News and National Public Radio reported that he was charged more than $500,000 for 14 weeks of treatment by a company called Fresenius Medical Care, which has an office in Missoula. After the story came out, the bill was waived.

He said DCI has been “amazing” in providing care.

“They treat you like family here,” he said.

Jim Gillhouse, the associate administrator at Community, said patients can enjoy heated chairs and personal televisions while they undergo treatment, which can take as long as four hours.

“The new center is conveniently located on South Reserve and is accepting new patients and individuals traveling from out of town in need of dialysis,” he said.

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