Please continue reporting on hospital discharge backlog

I commend reporter Sydney Jackson’s story in the Weekend Herald on slow hospital discharges (“In Everett hospital limbo: ‘You’re left in the dark, unless you scream,” The Herald, May 11).

Yes, discharges are tied to a patient meeting the handoff readiness benchmarks.

To me, one other key factor in the story’s example case was patient John Wightman’s medical insurance. Plus the inferred fact he had insufficient medical insurance until his family got him onto a private plan after being told he was ineligible for state insurance.

This line nailed it: “(Long-term care rehab facilities) are often privately owned and have set quotas based on patient needs, insurance plans and gender.”

If you think of this like a pipeline, the rehab facilities also need a solid discharge plan before they, too, can medically discharge. Often this includes having an at-home care plan pre-established. Involving a visiting caregiver in this plan requires insurance authorization, too.

The story reports a backlog of up to 100 long-term stay patients at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett any given time who could be discharged under ideal circumstances but are stuck, partially from the backlog at rehab facilities.

The next investigative piece could attempt a point-in-time look at a sample 100 patients to analyze their medical insurance and financial status, and compare this against the quotas of rehabs. What are the industry standard rehab center quotas for patients on private health insurance plans versus state-run insurance? What does that mean for who’s in the hospital discharge backlog? Where else is the pipeline clogged? Tell us.

This story could go far while staying close to home.

Michael Whitney


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