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Swing bed services offer a high level of care

LUTCHER — St. James Parish Hospital offers skilled care, also known as “swing bed” services, to patients who require a higher level of care before they are ready to return home or transfer to an alternate facility. It takes an entire team of professionals to provide the compassionate one-on-one care that patients deserve, and by the time a patient is admitted, a lot of work has already taken place behind the scenes.

Case manager Andrea Walden and social worker Melba Perez-Berguno are among the team members who work closely with patients and families to deliver high quality care.

Walden sends clinical information to patients’ insurance companies to get visits approved or lengthened. She also works with therapists, physicians and the on-site hospitalist to make sure the patient’s needs are being met and determine if any services such as home health or outpatient physical therapy are recommended upon discharge.

Perez-Berguno takes pride in taking care of a patient’s psyche and emotional well-being. She is a resource queen who is always willing to point patients and families in the right direction to improve medical outcomes.

According to Walden, St. James Parish Hospital’s status as a critical access hospital opens doors to physical therapy, occupational therapy and skilled therapy services.

A person healing from a hip replacement surgery or recovering from a stroke could benefit from swing bed services. Walden said St. James Parish Hospital’s swing bed program is also ideal for patients who struggle with shortness of breath, whether they are battling pneumonia, congestive heart failure or COPD. Access to the respiratory department allows patients to easily receive oxygen or breathing treatments.

Swing bed services are also beneficial to patients with a need for long-term IV antibiotics. This may include patients with diabetic wounds or infection of the bone. According to Walden, these patients can continue seeing their wound care doctors while receiving treatment in the swing bed program.

“We provide excellent care to the patients because we are a hospital. We’re able to manage the patients that have a more complex medical need and co-morbid conditions. If a patient was in a nursing home and they had a medical issue arise, they would have to be shipped to a hospital to be evaluated. Here, because we’re a hospital, the hospitalist sees them and can manage those issues in addition to continuing their therapy,” Walden said.

She added that ancillary departments give patients convenient access to respiratory therapy, radiology, surgical intervention and labs that can be done in house. Orthopedic services, pulmonology, cardiology and G.I. services are also accessible to patients in skilled care.

“We have a lot of people that can come and see the patient to prevent them from having to have a readmission back to the hospital,” Walden said. “That’s not just for the people who start here with us. We would get someone from another hospital that comes to our skilled unit who can manage them and prevent them from having to be readmitted to the hospital they came from.”

Perez-Berguno said St. James Parish Hospital has implemented an exercise mobility program for patients that arrive bedridden. This program was especially integral to the recovery of patients during the first surge of COVID-19.

“The majority of our swing patients go home with home health or home exercise programs. We encourage them to continue that routine at home,” she said, adding that a strong support system at home can make the difference between a patient improving or regressing.
Perez-Berguno helps to connect families to community resources such as Council on Aging senior centers, support groups, palliative care, outpatient services, personal sitters and assisted living or nursing facilities.

One resource located close to home is St. James Parish Hospital’s diabetic support groups, which are led by registered dietician Kourtney Wingate the second Tuesday of every month in the hospital’s meeting room.

Perez-Berguno loves being a social worker because it allows her to be present for the patient and their family through the highs and the lows. She is also grateful to be a lifelong learner in the medical profession.

Walden worked as an ER nurse for 15 years, and she said her role as a case manager turns the tables of being able to see the back end of nursing.

Walden is very data driven and knows how important it is for detailed processes with insurance companies to be correct from the get-go in order for the patient’s care to fall into place. She is also present to communicate with families through a patient’s recovery or their end of life.

Both Walden and Perez-Berguno’s advice to keep aging seniors out of the hospital is to maintain a healthy diet and stay active every day, even if exercise is as simple as taking a walk outside.

To learn more about St. James Parish Hospital’s skilled services or to speak to a case manager directly, call 225-258-5936.