Newspaper: Las Vegas hospitals quick to discharge patients

March 31, 2018

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Patients with mental illness are often being discharged from hospitals too soon, resulting in many returning to emergency rooms or being sent to group homes, according to a Las Vegas newspaper.

The early hospital releases are indicative of the state’s scarce resources for treating mental illness, a lack of trained professionals and a shortage of hospital beds for patients who often can’t pay for care, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported earlier this month.

“The hospitals and other rehab facilities are pressured to get people out,” said Lynn Hunsinger, a licensed social worker who works with various health care providers. “As soon as they can get someone discharged, it frees up a bed for someone else.”

As patients with mental illness are rushed out of the hospital, they’re often funneled into group homes, which state audits have uncovered a number to be unlicensed and having squalid conditions.

Nevada hospitals are also releasing patients admitted on 72-hour medical holds before the holds have expired, law enforcement officials said. Police, physicians or other health care providers can order holds for people who are unable to care for themselves or who threaten to hurt themselves or others.

Releasing these patients early creates a cycle where people are placed on the streets, but they are sent back to the hospital after another hold is issued, officials said.

“They keep them if a doctor agrees with the assessment and says this person needs to be on a 72-hour hold,” said John McGrath, Las Vegas police deputy chief. “But we’ve had people who have been released in 15 minutes. We have people who we have taken multiple times in the same day. That part of the system is broken.”

Jim Martin was taken to North Vista Hospital last month on a medical hold after he attempted suicide. The 41-year-old information technology manager said he was released the next day.

Martin said he was never taken to the psychiatric ward, and he never received medication or discharge paperwork. He did see a psychiatrist just before his release.

“All I had to do is tell the psychiatrist that I didn’t want to kill myself anymore to get released,” Martin said. “There were no tests or medications given. They just said, ‘OK, we believe you; you’re good to go’ and kicked me out the door. I feel I was rushed out.”

North Vista has the second-highest readmission rate in the state, said Fantasi Pridgon, a project manager at HealthInsight, a health care advocacy organization.

“With North Vista, they have so many patients, and a lot of times they don’t have enough beds,” Pridgon said.

Adults can leave wherever they choose, said Susan Olson, a spokeswoman for North Vista.

The newspaper contacted most hospitals in the Las Vegas area to request comment on discharge procedures for mental health patients. Most of the hospitals did not respond.

Attending physicians at the University Medical Center decide when a patient is discharged, spokeswoman Danita Cohen said.

Sunrise Hospital physicians make all discharge decisions for its patients, spokeswoman Fran Jacques said.


Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

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