Hospitals are $3,700-per-day hotels for patients in limbo, UC Davis says

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When patients have nowhere to go after being medically cleared for discharge, they may end up being unnecessarily hospitalized for months or even years, according to UC Davis Health

These patients, who are stuck in "healthcare limbo," no longer need the specialized care offered at an academic medical center like Sacramento, Calif.-based UC Davis Medical Center, but they don't have the resources, family or the physical or mental capacity to be discharged on their own, said J. Douglas Kirk, MD, chief medical officer of UC Davis Health. 

Dr. Kirk said there may be as many as 12 patients at the hospital on any given day who have been hospitalized for more than three months without the need for the level of care offered at the hospital. One patient has been hospitalized at UC Davis for more than four years. 

"The original medical needs of that individual and other extreme length-of-stay patients have been addressed," the health system said. "Now they have no one and no place to go where their chronic needs can be met." 

For patients who need little or no acute care, a hospital room becomes an expensive hotel room. The average daily inpatient cost in California is about $3,700, according to UC Davis. 

"No one should have to remain in a hospital when they don't need to be," Dr. Kirk said. "It's not good for anyone's health or well-being to remain hospitalized long after they've been treated and healed. It's also not good for the rest of the community, for the health care costs we all have to pay, and it's especially unfair to the other patients who need our services and hospital beds."

UC Davis Health said there are several issues that need addressed to reduce the number of patients who remain unnecessarily hospitalized in Sacramento, including improving and streamlining access to assisted living support services, building more bed capacity for individuals with severe dementia and long-term psychiatric conditions and reducing the time it takes to get a court-appointed conservator assigned to patients. 

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