Thursday, October 25, 2007

Speaking of the Health Care Crisis...

Hagan Asks UH and Clinic to Help Serve More Poor People

In today's paper, the Plain Dealer did a story about indigent care and the response by our local health care empires. We have talked about these problems for years in the pages of the Grapevine. The shelters see these issues every day with people improperly discharged from the hospitals. We also just posted a discussion about the nursing home problem today on this blog. Our health care system for poor people is broken and needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up. NEOCH and others are trying to get some facts from the shelters on the number of people in need of some nursing care every day right now living in shelter.

I can tell you that there are now more than one ambulance trip per night from LMM 2100 Lakeside shelter to the hospitals. The "emergency" rooms have become the primary care doctors for most homeless people. The wait in the "emergency" room is now typically6-8 hours, but on busy nights can be double that wait. There are just so many people at the "emergency" room waiting for non-emergency care or prescriptions that the system is at a breaking point. Many homeless people shop emergency rooms based on previous debt. For example, they do not want to be hassled about a $10,000 bill at Lutheran so they will walk down to MetroHealth. Why the hospital would present a $10,000 bill to a person who has not earned that amount of money in the last five years combined is a mystery to me? We now have a public health system in which a person starts off at the business office discussing their ability to pay before they ever see a health care professional.

A big first step for these quasi-not-for-profit hospitals would be to pour huge resources into the neighborhood health centers and the Free Clinic. Having more doctors available in Hough NEON Health Center, or Care Alliance or McCafferty Health Center or any of the other facilities would make some difference in reducing the problems at the Emergency room. Commissioner Hagan, a great champion of MetroHealth, needs to continue to push UH and the Clinic, but he cannot forget the neighborhood based health care system that has a proven track record and could alleviate some of the problems at the "emergency" rooms.

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

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