General Assembly creates task force to study patient abandonment

The Delaware General Assembly has approved a concurrent resolution, introduced by Senator Nicole Poore and Representative Ray Seigfriedo, to establish a study group examining patient abandonment at hospitals.

When a patient recovers to the point that their health status is no longer acute, they are typically discharged to recover at home or in the care of a skilled nursing, long-term care, or other appropriate facility. When individuals are unable to make decisions for themselves, they may require a family member or a guardian to act as the decision-maker. In some cases, family members abandon the hospitalized patient.

A recent Delaware Healthcare Association survey of Delaware hospitals over a two-year period found that 115 extended stay patients were in hospital a total of 11,398 days beyond their period of acuity.

The lack of adequate numbers of public guardians available to make necessary medical decisions compounds the problem, leaving the patient to languish.

“No patient should linger in a hospital room when they do not require hospitalization,” said Delaware Healthcare Association President and CEO Wayne Smith. “Some patients are caught for months or even over a year due to abandonment and the lack of timely acquisition of a guardian to make appropriate decisions for those incapable of doing so themselves. Allowing for a timely appointment of a guardian will also free these patients to receive home care or care in an appropriate setting designed to meet their daily living needs.”

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