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Hospitals adjust to new rules on treating homeless patients

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jan 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-23 21:37:29-05

A new year and new requirements for hospitals.

Nurses now have to go through a lengthy checklist before discharging a homeless patient. It went into effect 23 days ago for all hospitals within the state of California.

“Provide them with clothing, provide them with a meal and basically just make sure they are not thrust out into an environment that isn’t safe for them,” said Health Consultant Joel Diringer.

Diringer will facilitate a meeting Friday with San Luis Obispo County hospitals on Senate Bill 1152.

“It was part of a statewide problem where there had been instances around the state where patients who were in the hospital or in the emergency room were just sort of discharged to homeless shelters without any advanced notice, let out in their hospital gowns without any support,” Diringer explained.

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network in Sacramento sponsored the bill.

“We’re not requiring hospitals to build housing. We’re not saying any of that but we are saying, take advantage of the resources that exist and help the people who are running those operations. Help them help you,” said Kiran Savage, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network Deputy Director.

Hospitals in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties say they already had a lot of these protocols in place. What’s new is having to write it down on paper.

“It guides the nurses through the discharge process,” said Sara Signorelli, Lompoc Valley Medical Center Director of Case Management.

Lompoc Valley Medical Center says it’s prompted them to pay for some respite beds at the Bridgehouse Homeless Shelter. They can also send a nurse out there if needed.

“We have a grant, a prime project grant, and that’s how we’re paying for it right now. It’s a five-year grant,” Signorelli explained.

The hospital says it’s been training on the new policy since September.

Discharged medications, infectious disease screening, a vaccination plan, and transportation plan are just some of the other items on the checklist.

“Overall, it should really save some money. Of course, what’s happening now is homeless people are being discharged to the streets and there’s a revolving door and they end up back in the emergency room or the hospital,” Diringer said.

The hospital says it will be able to better understand how much money is spent on treating the homeless now that documentation is required.