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St. Francis hospital helps the poor get breathing equipment

July 15, 2018

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — When Chris Goplin, supervisor of respiratory care at CHI Health St. Francis, and his staff determined there is a portion of St. Francis respiratory care patients who can’t afford the equipment they need after release from the hospital, he went to work to meet that need.

What they found, Goplin said, was that some patients being released from the hospital needed oxygen, but they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs. So he and his team went to the St. Francis board to see if they could find a solution.

They emphasized to the board that some of those patients who could not afford oxygen assistance didn’t have good outcomes.

“That was totally unacceptable to us,” Goplin said.

The result was Project Care Breathe Right, a program that has been active at St. Francis for nine months.

The Grand Island Independent reports that last month, the CHI Health St. Francis Foundation announced that the Project Care Breathe Right program and area first responders will be the beneficiaries of this year’s Ticket to Win fundraiser.

At the fundraiser announcement, Goplin spoke about Project Care Breathe Right. The program provides financial assistance to patients who are in need of take-home equipment for their cardio/pulmonary needs such as home oxygen machines and oxygen tank rentals. It doesn’t pay for hospital expenses.

Goplin said the program was born out of the increasing number of people without adequate private insurance coverage who cannot qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.

“Our less fortunate people of Grand Island need care, but they cannot pay, so we at St. Francis live our mission of taking care of the poor people who cannot pay,” he said. “We are never going to turn anyone away based on whether you can pay your bill or can’t.”

He and his team told the foundation board they needed funding for oxygen concentrators, oxygen tanks and other necessary equipment. The program they created purchases equipment from Grand Island businesses, paying all of the cost.

“You never have to pay a dime for your oxygen needs while you are at home,” Goplin said.

The cost of the equipment is about $1,200 per patient.

“There is such a demand for funding,” he said about health care. “We see people having such a hard time applying for Medicare or Medicaid or private insurance.

“They cannot achieve that for whatever reason, and we are left with a gap in the patient population who needs care. We wanted to be able to step in and say, ‘Don’t worry. We are going to take care of you.’”

So far, they have only had to use the program three or four times because they have a screening program to make sure that only the patients who really need the assistance qualify.

“Anybody who needs financial assistance, we work with those people, too, through home care companies to get those patients paid for, such as financial hardship cases,” Goplin said. “All the companies in Grand Island will work with people who have a financial hardship with reducing cost and things of that nature.”

He said the work of the CHI Health St. Francis Foundation makes sure that “we can live our mission and are able to care for those people who are sick and cannot pay.”

Abby Olson, manager of acute care management at St. Francis and CHI Health Good Samaritan in Kearney, gives Goplin a lot of credit for the program’s impact.

“Chris really made an impact with this project due to his passionate heart and experience and knowledge base,” Olson said.

Goplin and his team know the anticipated medical and equipment needs for this population as well as the associated costs, Olson said.

“Chris did a great job of working with our community partners and looking behind every corner to see what resources could be utilized,” she said. “He knew that if we didn’t push this project to a bigger scale, our patients would be at risk.”

Olson said the CHI Health team feels it’s their mission to serve “this vulnerable population, and with our vision to create healthier communities, we are headed in the right direction with this mission work.”

“We are very excited about this program, appreciative of the support we’ve received so far, and grateful for the runaway to act on this,” she said. “I have great faith in knowing that the program will be managed responsibly as that is respectful to our donors as well.”

Olson said CHI Health’s mission “clearly states that we strive to care for those in need, especially those who are poor, vulnerable or underserved.”

“We were fortunate to have a supportive crowd to approach in our local leadership team, foundation director and our foundation board that listened and helped us push this initiative forward,” she said.

“This project will serve those who fall through the cracks; it’s not the poorest of the poor. This is the working poor who have limited to no insurance benefits, high deductibles and/or co-pays, or those who must choose to spend their minimal take-home pay on basic needs such as housing or food vs. affording their chronic medication or oxygen needs.”

Olson said most patients in that position choose the first option, delaying necessary medical care, which results in more acute hospitalizations, frequent readmissions, serious medical conditions and/or possibly death before they finally do seek care.

“This, in turn, adds greater hardships on those with acute or chronic lung conditions that require chronic oxygen, multiple supplies or machines needed for home as well as medications and specialty clinic visits,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the most common chronic respiratory diseases are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension. Chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2011.

Approximately 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and in some cases asthma. The purposes of the lungs are to bring oxygen into the body and to remove carbon dioxide. Oxygen is a gas that provides us energy while carbon dioxide is a waste product or “exhaust” of the body.

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, but it is also found in farmers and agricultural workers with their exposure to air pollutants, such as grain dust.

Goplin has worked for St. Francis for four years and has been with CHI for 10 years.

He said they see a lot of patients at St. Francis with respiratory problems.

“Grand Island has a pretty substantial population of COPD patients,” Goplin said.

Project Care Breathe Right, he said, was “born out of necessity.”

“We have seen patients in Grand Island who are poor and just can’t pay,” Goplin said. “We just wanted to be able to help.”

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Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com

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