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Transporting patients to native country for care
Win-win situation for patient, family, and hospital
For Fred Nenner, MSW, and the rest of the staff at Lutheran Medical Center in New York City, successfully returning injured immigrant patients to their family in their native country is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs they tackle.
"The rewards are astounding. It becomes a triumph for our mission. Everybody on the staff knows when we're returning a patient to his family, right up to the CEO. When we get it done, we feel like we are on the top of the world," says Nenner, director of social work.
Certain conditions have to be met for the hospital to send people back to their country of origin, he says.
Patients must have no other possible alternative for care and are likely to physically reside in the hospital for as long as they live. The hospital must get in touch with the patient's family in the country of origin, and they must want the patient back. A facility in the patient's country of origin must be able to provide adequate care for the patient.
"We do not send people back to their home countries unless there is a safe plan for their care and they have a family who wants them. We have people in this building that we have no way of discharging because they need skilled nursing," Nenner reports.
The hospital has picked up the tab for sending seriously injured patients back to Mexico, Poland, and China via commercial flights or air ambulances. The patients typically are accompanied by medical personnel from the hospital who take care of their in-flight needs.
Arranging those discharges takes a lot of staff time over a period of weeks to work out, Nenner adds.
"It is expensive; but if you do the math, it all makes sense. You have to weigh the cost of the transportation vs. the cost of providing care for the patient for an indeterminate amount of time. When you factor in the fact that you will be able to turn over the bed, the economic benefits are clear," he says.