Homeless people and those with mental illness who have to be re-admitted to hospital for recurring health problems are putting a heavy burden on B.C.’s health care system, a new study suggests.
According to researchers at Simon Fraser University, each patient of those descriptions being re-admitted to the hospital costs taxpayers an average of $60,000 year over year.
The study is based on data from 433 British Columbians who were homeless or suffering from a mental illness and were admitted to hospital spanning a five-year period.
Fifty-three per cent of patients were readmitted within one year of the initial visit.
Researcher Julian Somers said even with doctors following up, re-admittance is likely if the person is struggling to find basic necessities.
“Follow-up care after someone is discharged from the hospital only helps reduce re-hospitalization if the patient is housed or is working,” Somers said.
“If someone is homeless, no amount of medical care will compensate for the fact that they are homeless. Taxpayers can invest in support programs like consumption sites or street outreach nurses, but it won’t put a dent in reducing the number of re-hospitalization visits.”
The report suggests there is a need for housing to be included in discharge plans for vulnerable patients.
“Collaborative solutions spanning health, housing and social welfare sectors are strongly indicated to prevent re-hospitalization and to meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness and mental illness,” the report concludes.