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Democrats introduce bill meant to address extended hospital stays

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Healthcare Association is speaking out in support of legislation aiming to reduce extended hospital stays.

The Medical Guardianship Resolution would create a committee to examine reducing the number of patients forced to remain in hospital after they are stable enough for discharge.

A recent Healthcare Association survey counted 115 extended stays in Delaware hospitals over the course of two years with an average of 110 extra days per patient—one patient stayed in the hospital for almost two years.

Healthcare Association President and CEO Wayne Smith says patient abandonment is not uncommon.

“Sometimes these patients are admitted for legitimate acute care concerns,” said Smith. “They might have a condition that needs treatment in the hospital. That acute condition may be treated in a day or a matter of days, and then the caretaker will not return phone calls or respond to contact requests regarding patient discharge.”

Smith points out prisons are even better suited for long term stays than hospitals.

“Hospitals don’t have exercise yards, they don’t have libraries, they don’t have recreation rooms, they don’t have programing—all things that are available to people who are incarcerated in one of the state’s prisons,” he said.

The proposed legislation does not go past creating a committee to try to solve this problem. Smith says the group would likely include representatives from the Court of Chancery, the Office of Public Guardian and the disabilities community.

He says one solution may be to allow Medicaid to pay for guardians to accompany patients from the hospital to long-term care facilities as they do in a few other states.

State Sen. Majority Leader Nicole Poore (D- New Castle) and State Rep. Ray Seigfried (D-Arden) are the bill’s main sponsors.