PINEHURST – It should have been a typical patient visit for the FirstHealth Home Care Services nurse. Although her patient was suffering from several chronic medical conditions, she was home from the hospital and apparently doing well.
Physically, she was, at least for someone with her medical problems. But during the home visit, the nurse found a troubling situation that was on the verge of becoming critical.
The electricity in the home of the oxygen-dependent patient was about to be turned off. Several organizations that could usually be counted on for aid had been contacted, but were either out of funds or unable to help for other reasons. Time was running out: It was noon, and the patient’s power was scheduled for disconnection at 5 p.m.
Nurses from FirstHealth Home Care Services frequently encounter similar patient needs. Some have even been known to reach into their own pockets to help out. In the case just recounted, however – a situation involving a patient with high blood pressure, heart failure and COPD – the nurse was able to tap the resources of a Home Care Patient Fund funded by the Moore Regional Hospital Auxiliary and see that the bill was paid.
“Every day, we may have three or four patients who have need of the Patient Care Fund,” says Karen Martin, R.N., assistant director of clinical operations for FirstHealth Home Care Services. “It’s amazing what all this fund has done for these patients.”
Often, the need will center on medications that the patient can’t afford. Other situations have involved the need for walkers, canes, transportation to and from medical appointments, even fans during the summer and blankets for the winter.
The Auxiliary has supported the program for about six years. This year, the $5,000 in Auxiliary-donated funding for fiscal year 2011-2012 was depleted by March. The Auxiliary disbursed another $2,500 for the remainder of the fiscal year and pledged $7,500 in new funding for FY 2012-2013, which began Oct. 1.
“This has been one of the most compelling things to come before the Auxiliary,” says Special Project Co-chair Melody Crow, “because the Home Care professionals are in a unique situation to see firsthand the needs of these patients in a time of crisis. With the way the economy has been, it’s making things more difficult.”
The Auxiliary provides similar funding for other FirstHealth services – among them, the Kids in Crisis Fund, which supports needs identified by the FirstHealth School Nurses Program; and money for children’s dental care needs that are beyond the scope of services provided by the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers.
“It’s been a very eye-opening experience to see the depth and breadth of need in our community,” Crow says. “People look at our community and think we are so wealthy. It’s just amazing the needs that are here.”
According to Martin, the Patient Care Fund can sometimes mean the difference between staying home and a hospital readmission for a Home Care patient of limited means. Some are uninsured or depend on Medicaid to pay for their health care. Others have suffered personal financial setbacks.
“For typical patients, their medications can be $300 to $400 a month,” Martin says. “Sometimes patients will forego their medications to meet their basic needs.”
Crow says the Patient Care Fund can relieve some of the stress of a home recuperation following a hospitalization and help avoid a possible readmission.
“This is a way to ease that burden and allow patients to focus on getting better,” she says. “The Auxiliary is concerned with the health and wellness of our community. This is another piece of that and a way we can contribute.”
FirstHealth of the Carolinas offers home health through FirstHealth Home Care Services in Moore, Montgomery, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond and Lee counties. For more information on these services or the Patient Care Fund, call (800) 213-3284.