Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Follow Up on Homeless Stories

Does That Happen Here?

On Sunday, 60 Minutes (which oddly only has 42 minutes of content) aired a segment on the dumping of homeless people from hospitals in Los Angeles. The premiere news magazine in the United States had guest correspondent Anderson Cooper spending time on Skid Row to find out the extent of the problem. It was amazing to see the number of the homeless people in the homeless capital of the United States compared to Cleveland. LA has four times as many people homeless every night as we have in the entire year, and a sizable number are concentrated in this one neighborhood of LA.

I was asked at least three times this week if this happens in Cleveland? Yes, but no where to the extent it happens in other cities. MetroHealth moves people as fast as they can and there is a long wait sometimes in the emergency room, but I have not seen them improperly discharging people to the streets. I am not sure that we all realize what a gem MetroHealth Hospital is for our community. The other hospitals need some work. I recently met with St. Vincent about this and other issues. So, give them credit for trying to work on the problem. They have done some work to try to build relationships with the current homeless social service providers. The other hospitals seem to do everything they can to avoid providing care to poor people and then have no problem "relocating" people to the shelters. It does not happen everyday, but there is a problem. Neighbors wonder how a King from Jordan travels 2,500 miles to go to the hospital here in Cleveland, while the Fairfax resident cannot walk around the corner and get access to health care.

Every few days we see people arrive with bandages that need changed or colostomy bags or prescriptions that cannot be filled. There is this slow dribble out of the hospitals into our shelters with open wounds or follow up services needed. We only have 9 respite beds located in Cleveland and those are for men. We have only sporadic nursing care within the shelters, and we now see regular ambulance runs from our shelters back to the hospitals. We have many who are not sick enough for hospital beds, but too severe for the shelters. Few want to be confined to a nursing home, and so they are stuck in limbo. The economics are that the hospital saving money by discharging a homeless person for a broken leg is wasted when they show up a week later with an infection and an improperly healed leg. Cleveland has a growing problem with hospital dumping, but certainly a solvable problem.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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