Oregon grapples with discharge delays: 'Hospitals are not hotels'

Oregon hospitals are grappling with a significant number of patients who are medically ready to leave the hospital but unable to because there are no open beds to place them in at appropriate post-acute care facilities, The Oregonian reported.

As of Nov. 6, upward of 1 in 5 Oregon hospital beds were occupied by such patients.

"It is deeply disturbing that we have essentially abandoned these patients in the hospitals," Becky Hultberg, CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said, according to The Oregonian. "Hospitals are not hotels."

Discharge delays are not new for hospitals and health systems during the pandemic. Part of the issue stems from staffing shortages at hospitals and post-acute care facilities such as nursing homes, The Oregonian reported. This means fewer beds in healthcare facilities that are adequately staffed.

Care managers, who play a key role in arranging patients' recovery plans, are seeing the problem play out in Oregon, where hospital officials called discharge delays a humanitarian crisis, according to The Oregonian.

Krista Farnham, chief executive of Providence Portland, told the publication, "The biggest challenge facing our care managers is not in the hospital, it is in the community. There is no access in the community for our long-length-of-stay patients who may have ongoing health challenges and cannot return to their original housing accommodations. This is an unprecedented situation facing health care systems in Oregon and across the nation."

Care managers told the publication other issues are involved as well that complicate patient discharge, such as lack of dedicated facilities for mentally ill patients and difficulty that may be involved in confirming whether a patient is Medicaid-eligible.

The issue — and those related to it — is garnering response from union representatives and hospitals, which are affected financially.

The Oregon Nurses Association, for instance, unveiled a bill Nov. 2 that would regulate staffing ratios in hospitals.

Hospitals oppose the union's proposal. However, some are making other efforts, including Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser, which has brought Medicaid intake specialists into its hospitals to hasten the Medicaid approval process, according to The Oregonian.

To read the full report, click here.

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