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Study: Homeless patients cost $2,500 more than the average patient for each hospital stay
Date:3/9/2011

ive them.

Previous studies have found respite facilities -- also known as infirmaries -- are an effective and less expensive alternative to keeping homeless patients in the hospital. In contrast to traditional shelters, infirmaries do not require homeless people to leave each morning and they provide nursing and medical care. There is only one infirmary facility open to all homeless men and women in Toronto, at the Sherbourne Health Centre. A second infirmary at Seaton House accepts primarily men who were living at Seaton House prior to their hospitalization.

The higher costs for hospitalizing homeless people with psychiatric problems is probably due to the severity of their illness when they are admitted, Hwang said. This could reflect both the limited availability of mental health services for the homeless in the community and the necessity to have severe symptoms to be hospitalized.

"Assertive outreach through community mental health programs may lower costs by preventing or reducing the duration of psychiatric hospitalizations among homeless people," he said.

James Weaver, a co-author of the study, noted that the extra $2,500 for hospitalizing a homeless person is almost exactly the same figure as that found in the only other study on the topic, conducted in New York City in 1998.

"The fact that excess hospitalization costs for homeless people were observed in this study conducted in Canada shows that these higher costs are not eliminated by the presence of universal health insurance," he said.


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Contact: Leslie Shepherd
shepherdl@smh.ca
416-864-6094
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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