Sunday, August 05, 2001

Specialty care just what patients need

Long-term facility focuses on therapy on individual basis

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Four hospitals-within-a-hospital in central Ohio are among 63 facilities nationwide that provide care for people facing lengthy recoveries.

        Select Specialty Hospitals are housed within — but not linked to — Doctors Hospital North, Ohio State University Medical Center, Riverside Methodist Hospitals and University Hospitals East.

        They're designed to serve patients such as Harold England, a 57-year-old Kentucky resident with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can cause paralysis and occurs after certain viral infections and vaccinations.

        He was transferred to the Select Specialty Hospital at Ohio State from a Cincinnati hospital.

        “We chose this. He could have gone to other places closer to home, but this is where we want him to be,” said his wife, Joyce, who praised the combination of physical, speech, occupational and respiratory therapies that has helped bring her husband from complete paralysis to being able to move his arms and legs, and even talk.

        The hospitals are operated by Select Medical Corp., a Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based company with revenue of about $800 million last year.

        The company Web site says the goal of the hospitals is “providing quality care for appropriate patients who need a longer acute stay for their recovery or well-being.”

        Federal law limits reimbursement for long-term care in a traditional hospital, and nursing homes aren't always equipped to meet the needs of patients critically injured in a car accident or paralyzed by a rare syndrome, said Mary Burkett, chief executive officer of Select Specialty.

        About 20 years ago, Medicare stopped reimbursing hospitals for caring for such patients, putting a strain on regular hospitals and prompting development of long-term acute-care sites such as the ones her company operates, Ms. Burkett said.

        In Columbus, the company has 146 beds, about 75 percent of which are occupied.

        Last year, Select Specialty's Columbus sites cared for 1,082 patients, who stayed an average of 28 days.

        Becky Zuccarelli, Riverside's senior vice president for administrative services, said: “I think they're definitely an advantage for us to have them in town and to have one here at Riverside.

        “They are able to take care of patients that no one else in town will take — nursing homes either can't or won't take them.”

        In many cases, a patient's transfer from the main hospital to Select Specialty is virtually seamless, with the patient often seeing the same doctor within the same building.


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