Judge rules Lee Memorial can evict patient with brain injury

A judge has given Lee Memorial Hospital permission to evict a brain-injured patient who has remained at the Fort Myers, Fla.-based hospital for more than a year after physicians said he was ready to go home or be transferred to a nursing home, according to the Naples Daily News.

The 41-year-old patient Jason Degraaf was hospitalized in February 2015 after he was struck by a vehicle. In its lawsuit, the Lee Memorial claims Mr. Degraaf is in a vegetative state. Physicians said the patient was ready to be transferred out of the hospital last April. However, Mr. Degraaf's mother claims her son is not in a vegetative state, and his family has refused to allow him to be sent home or to a nursing home, according to Lee Memorial's lawsuit.

In court filings, Mr. Degraaf's mother claims her son needs further treatment at the Florida Institute for Neurological Rehabilitation in Wauchula. She alleges insurance will not cover the additional treatment because Lee Memorial failed to properly register her son with a Florida program that helps people with spinal cord and brain injuries. To qualify for care under the program, patients must have a "reasonable expectation" they can "achieve reintegration into the community" through the treatment, according to the report.

Since physicians have deemed Mr. Degraaf ready for transfer, Medicaid will no longer pay for his care at the hospital. Lee County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Krier ruled last week that Lee Memorial is being harmed by Mr. Degraaf's continued stay, according to the report.

The judge said Mr. Degraaf is adding to overcrowding at Lee Memorial. She also said his continued stay is preventing the hospital from meeting its public duty by the loss of a hospital bed.

Regarding the judge's ruling, a Lee Memorial spokeswoman said, "We appreciate having resolution on this matter and we can now work to find an appropriate placement for this patient."

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