Sanford Bemidji Medical Center is planning to close an acute rehabilitation unit, reducing post-hospital care options that are becoming increasingly scarce in the state.
The hospital intends to send patients elsewhere for rehab but couldn’t justify keeping the unit open when insurance restrictions and other changes left it half-full, Karla Eischens, chief executive of the regional hospital in northwest Minnesota, told the Star Tribune.
“How we care for patients is more than just one unit or one facility,” she said. “Closing the [acute rehabilitation unit] will allow us to reallocate scarce resources to other high-need areas within our hospital.”
A hearing was held in January to review Sanford’s plans to close the unit by April and convert it into more inpatient medical and surgical beds.
Inpatient rehab helps patients recover from strokes, traumatic injuries and surgeries when they aren’t ready to go home but are strong enough to participate in three hours of daily therapy. It’s a little-used level of care in Minnesota — only a dozen units statewide — that has been in decline over the past decade because of improved surgical techniques that have allowed more patients to recover at home.
Sanford had already reduced its unit from 14 beds to five, but its closure comes as other providers are trying to expand the level of care in response to emerging pressures on Minnesota’s health care system.
Hospitals in Minnesota often relied on nursing homes to provide rehab treatment, but those facilities have closed 3,000 beds statewide since 2020 because of declining staffing and rising costs.
The loss of access has caused logjams in hospitals, which can’t discharge patients in need of rehab until they find openings for them and can’t free up their own beds for waiting patients. The overcrowding extends into emergency departments, where patients sometimes wait for hours or receive treatment in hallways or waiting rooms.
(Source: Star Tribune)