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Area hospitals revive partnership

Occupational therapist’s hiring allows swing beds

— With the recent hiring of an occupational therapist, Three Rivers Hospital is ready to revive its swing bed program.

The hospital has contracted with Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak to hire for the part-time position, Three Rivers Chief Executive Officer Bud Hufnagel said.

An occupational therapist is one of the requirements for a swing bed program, which is for patients who have been in the hospital for surgery or illness and are recovering, but aren’t ready to go home yet.

“It doesn’t mean you have to have such acute care. You are able to function but not as well to be able to go home,” he said. “It’s a tremendous convenience for the patient and it’s a great recognition on the part of CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to recognize that it’s much better for the patient to stay in one location rather than shipping them around all over the place, and they’re getting the same service.”

Three Rivers, a critical access hospital, has 25 beds, and any of those can be used as a swing bed. In that status, patients are able to undergo rehabilitation or other needed services.

Patients can get post-surgical care for surgeries such as knee or hip replacement, rehabilitation after a stroke or heart attack, wound care, pain management medication and respiratory, speech and physical therapy, according to Mid-Valley Hospital’s website.

The patient’s billing also changes, meaning they pay less than someone on an inpatient status, Hufnagel said.

The hospital needs to finish reviewing policies and procedures and get caught up on regulations before the program can start up again. Hufnagel estimated it would be up and running in about two months.

Being a rural hospital gives Three Rivers the room to implement such a program, Hufnagel said, because the facility doesn’t have access to the larger variety of rehabilitation options you’d see in a city.

“It allows people to get the necessary services they need… and it gives them the ability to then go to a location closer to home so they can start their rehab and start healing up.

“That’s really the beauty of the swing bed (program),” he said.

“The patients absolutely love it,” said Rebecca Christoph, Mid-Valley’s director of nurses. “We’ve gotten good results and good feedback from the patients.”

Mid-Valley has had a swing bed program in place for about five years, Christoph said, though the program has become more active over the past year.

It’s especially useful to the facility’s orthopedics patients, discharge planner Nicole Hamilton said.

An average stay for an orthopedics patient in the swing bed program is about one to two weeks.

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