The trusted source for
healthcare information and
Hospital returns immigrant to his family in Poland
Case study illustrates a complicated discharge
Returning an immigrant to his or her native country for post-acute care is a long and complicated process but one that produces great rewards, says Fred Nenner, MSW, director of social services at Lutheran Medical Center in New York City.
Here's one success story:
Mr. J, a native of Poland, was in America with his daughter visiting his sister-in-law when he was hit by an automobile, suffering a C-3 fracture that severed his spinal cord and left him with neurological damage and a compromised mental status.
He was separated from his wife and other children by 8,000 miles and wanted to go home.
"His family wanted him back. They lived in the northwest corner of Poland, about four hours from Warsaw. We worked with the Polish Consulate to identify a hospital in that area that could provide the care he needed. After talking back and forth on the telephone, we got him admitted," Nenner recalls.
When the patient came into Lutheran Medical Center, he was in serious condition and on a ventilator.
"We had to get him off the ventilator because we can't transport a ventilator patient by airplane. That took at least four weeks," Nenner says.
Then came the challenge of transferring the patient to Poland. An air ambulance would cost $35,000.
It took about two months to arrange the transfer, Nenner says. There was an eight-hour time difference between New York and Poland that made it challenging to contact the hospital and physicians to share information about the patient.
Working with an airline, the hospital found a way to accommodate the patient's stretcher but needed to purchase nine airplane seats, as well as airfare for two doctors who attended him during the flight. The cost: $12,000.
Providing the continuous oxygen the patient needed was another challenge, since the airline wouldn't allow oxygen tanks on board. The solution: A respiratory therapist worked with the airline to find fittings from the plane's oxygen system that would fit his tracheometer.
"The respiratory therapy department worked with the hospital in Poland to get appropriate fittings that were compatible with their equipment so he could receive oxygen when he got home," Nenner says.
The medical staff traveled with medical kits and portable suction.
Because of security concerns, the hospital had to get permission for the ambulance to drive onto the tarmac, right up to the airplane.
"And we always pray that the patient is still stable the day of the flight," Nenner says.
The flight went smoothly and the hospital in Poland sent an ambulance to transport the patient from the airport in Warsaw to the hospital — a four-hour trip.
"The patient was happy. The family was happy. We felt good about the positive outcome. It was a win-win situation for everybody," Nenner says.