When age or illness turn parents into patients and children into caregivers, access to a local hospital with skilled care services shortens recovery times and eases relatives’ minds, too.
For a healthcare provider, part of serving your community is finding ways to make medical care as accessible and seamless as possible. West Feliciana Parish Hospital’s inpatient services are designed to do exactly that. WFH is designated as a “critical access hospital,” a status granted to eligible rural hospitals that allows them to provide skilled care and rehabilitation services in addition to the acute care services that people normally go to hospital to receive. If a patient comes to the hospital needing “acute services” (short-term treatment for severe injury or illness), and a physician decides he or she needs “skilled services” (specialized nursing care or occupational, speech, or physical therapy), rather than transferring the patient to a long-term care facility or nursing home, WFH is able to “swing” his or her bed between providing “acute” or “skilled” services, explains Director of Nursing, Angel Noble. “It’s known in the industry as a Swing Bed Program,” she says.
This is a big deal. The flexibility provided by skilled care services typically decreases the average length of a patient’s time in treatment, because it enables them to continue receiving care close to home and family, rather than being transferred to a long-term care facility farther afield. It also helps to maximize use of available hospital beds and simplifies the billing process, because the hospital staff alerts a patient’s insurance as to a change in care status as soon as it occurs.
St. Francisville native Karla Bringedahl saw firsthand the benefits of flexible care when her 88-year-old father, Howard Varner, was still recovering from kidney surgery in April, 2019. “It helps having this available in the community,” says Karla. “Knowing he was up here, I didn’t worry about him as much.” Being in a tight-knit community, Karla and her family knew Howard’s attending nurses and knew he was in good hands.
“Being in a small community, we know a lot of our patients as well,” says Angel, who has worked in nursing at WFH for 11 years. “In a way, it’s like caring for your own family. We’ve had people refer to it as the Ritz Carlton,” she laughs.
The hospital’s proximity keeps patients closer to friends and family than they would be if they had to travel to Baton Rouge for medical care. “We visited often because we wanted to, but we didn’t have to go and check on him because we knew he was being taken care of,” Karla says.
The types of patients who utilize skilled care are usually those who have experienced a stroke, or have fallen and had a break. “It takes a little bit longer and it’s a little bit harder for them to recover, so it’s mostly elderly patients that we see,” Angel says. “It always makes us feel better to help our own.”
As people age, health care needs increase and they may need more lab work and imaging, in addition to primary care and specialty services such as gastroenterology. In addition, it’s often adult children who find themselves bringing their parents to and from the doctor. WFH has all of these services right here in the community close to home.