Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who wants Jeri Ringseth?,,,Nobody.

The Seattle Times has been doing some articles on the state of healthcare. Two recent articles have focused on the plight of patient, Jeri Ringseth. I didn't read the first article, only glanced at the picture under the headline. The picture today was larger and more detailed. When I picked up the paper from our porch this morning, read the headline, and looked at the picture I told my husband that I could already tell him three things about this patient 1) She is mentally ill, 2) She is more physically disabled than she looks, and 3) Her husband somehow enables this condition. Those are the three reasons that she has been in a hospital for 189 days and rejected by over a dozen nursing facilities in the area. Technically nursing facilities cannot legally reject patients based on their lack of ability to pay. Jeri Ringseth is a medicaid patient. But, they can get out of that legality by saying that they are not able to meet the needs of the patient. I agree, they are not. I don't think that the rejection of Jeri Ringseth is based solely on her inability to pay. Of course, staying in the hospital and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt in medical expenses that will be passed on to those who are insured is not cost effective either.

I read the article, and the three things that I predicted were indeed accurate except for the part about the husband, which was hinted at but not fully disclosed. After working in skilled nursing facilities for more years than I care to admit, I have seen this plight many times before. Jeri Ringseth is mentally ill and has the cognitive ability of a third grader. She is a poster child for one of my biggest complaints regarding our present healthcare system and the one proposed by our current president. There are not facilities for those challenged by mental and physical disabilities.

Mental health has always been a "sweep it under the rug" issue. A decade ago our then President Bill Clinton made the decision that institutions were by and large a "bad" thing and many state institutions were shut down thus releasing countless mentally ill patients onto the streets where they continue to live homeless and unmedicated. The plight of those like Jeri Ringseth who also have physical disabilities is even more tragic. In light of these current placement problems, state run institutions don't look like such a bad thing.

Jeri Ringseth wanted to be out of the hospital by her birthday. Today is her birthday and she is still there. Recently, due to digestive problems, a feeding tube was placed which ironically might make finding a nursing home that will accept her easier. Due to her severe diabetes and subsequent loss of both legs, the feeding tube will ensure that the nursing facility doesn't have to monitor what she eats. This may sound lazy on the part of the nursing facility, but it is a very real issue. Jeri Ringseth suffers from severe diabetes, she has lost both legs because of this condition. I am not a doctor, but based on my own experience I have never seen a diabetic who monitored their diet and blood sugar levels lose limbs. This puts her in the category of someone who more than likely is unable to monitor herself.

I will wait for the next installment of the Jeri Ringseth story. Will she be placed in a skilled nursing facility? Will she remain in the hospital? or Will she go back home to live with her spouse (highly unlikely given the circumstances)?

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