For most patients, leaving the hospital means going home to recover in the comfort and safety of their own beds. But what about those who don’t have beds? Or, for that matter, homes?
A unique collaboration between Scripps Mercy Hospital, the San Diego County Hospital Association and the San Diego Rescue Mission provides homeless patients who have nowhere to go after a hospital stay continued medical care in a safe, stable environment.
Along with shelter, food, clothing and support services, the Recuperative Care Program helps homeless patients fully recover and, ideally, escape the streets.
The program began as a pilot in June 2009. After touring similar programs in Los Angeles, Mary E. Whitehead, Scripps’ administrative director, system-wide case management, headed up a clinical team of nurses, case managers, physicians and social workers to customize a program for Scripps.
To qualify, patients who are homeless must require continuing medical care for an acute illness or injury. They also need to be able to perform such daily living activities as showering, dressing and eating without assistance. In the program, patients must get up at a certain time, make their beds, go to the dining room for meals, take their medications as scheduled, make their own medical appointments and get to them on time.
“If they have a problem with their medications or transportation, they can call me, or they can let the Rescue Mission staff know and the staff will contact me,” says Rose Turner, RN, a Scripps case manager who works exclusively with the program to ensure a smooth coordination of care.
“We want patients to be as independent as possible, and we give them the support they need to achieve that.”
Since its founding, 10 Scripps patients have entered the Recuperative Care Program. Gary Knox was initially taken to Scripps Mercy Hospital by ambulance. It was his third trip to the emergency department. This time, he was diagnosed with acute hepatitis, liver and kidney failure, all resulting from long-term alcohol abuse. His legs were extremely swollen and numb, and he leaned on a shopping cart to walk.
After six weeks in the hospital, Gary was discharged into the Recuperative Care Program. Slowly, he began to turn his life around.
“Drinking almost killed me. If it wasn’t for Scripps and the Rescue Mission, I wouldn’t be here today,” says Gary. “People here have kept me on the straight and narrow. I always have the choice to come or go, but the staff has a way of talking sense into you when you get discouraged. Everyone wants me to succeed. They have picked me up from lower than the gutters and brought me back to being a functional civilized person again, which I never thought would happen.”