Today, Wednesday, July 16, 2008, MeritCare is announcing an operational change that's expected to take place with its transitional care unit (TCU). MeritCare is pursuing opportunities to transition the unit, which is a non acute-care unit, into an acute-care unit. The change will likely occur within the next six-18 months. The TCU is licensed as a nursing home, has 33 beds and is located at MeritCare South University (MCSU), 1720 University Dr. S., Fargo.
For the past six months, MeritCare has been having discussions with local long-term care facilities about having patients in need of TCU services cared for in their facilities vs. in the hospital. When MeritCare announced its reduction in work force on Thursday, June 26, 2008, officials noted that further operational changes (such as this one) would be made to ensure MeritCare's long-term viability.
TCUs offer a special caring environment for patients who no longer require all the resources of an acute hospital but who are still too sick or technology-dependent to be cared for at home. The length of stay for TCU patients is short; MeritCare's average is 10 days. An example of a patient who would be appropriate for TCU care is this - an elderly man is admitted to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo with pneumonia. He's in the hospital for five days, and while he is feeling better, he isn't strong enough to go home, and needs additional physical and occupational therapy. Instead of staying in a regular hospital room (an acute-care bed), the man is transferred to MeritCare's TCU.
The reasons for making this change are three-fold: MeritCare has a shortage of acute-care beds, and by doing this, it can increase its number of beds without having to add on to its facility; offering TCU services is part of long-term care facilities' core mission, and they are well equipped to manage patients needing these services; and the change will improve the use of medical resources in the Fargo-Moorhead community.
The Fargo-Moorhead community is very fortunate because it has excellent long-term care facilities. MeritCare will continue to need the services of all facilities in order to ensure that patients have access to services, but at this time, it's been working mainly with Bethany Homes, Fargo, N.D., and Eventide Senior Living Communities, West Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn., to achieve the goal of transitioning TCU services. Both of these facilities have major building projects planned within the next 18 months, which will increase the number of people to whom they can provide care.
The TCU at MeritCare will change into a 33-bed acute care unit. At this time, MeritCare is doing research to decide what specific population of patients the unit will serve. MeritCare currently has 583 hospital beds in Fargo - 380 at its downtown hospital and 203 at MCSU.
Employees will have the opportunity to transition to the new unit, or if they choose to continue to care for patients needing transitional care services, job opportunities are expected to be available at Bethany and Eventide.
- Acute care is defined as inpatient hospital care provided to patients requiring immediate and continuous attention for a short duration. Acute care includes, but is not limited to, medical, surgical, obstetric, pediatric, psychiatric, intensive care and cardiac intensive care in a hospital.
- TCUs first opened in Fargo in the early 1990s at what used to be called Dakota Heartland Health System (which then changed to Heartland Health System) and MeritCare. When MeritCare bought the assets of Heartland Health System in 2002, it decided to combine both TCUs into one unit at MeritCare South University.
- Services include: orthopedic rehabilitation, cardiac recovery, reconditioning and strengthening, post surgical recovery, complex medical management, etc.
- Most patients are admitted to the TCU from an acute unit of a hospital for continued care at a less intensive level. The healing environment on the TCU helps ease the patient's transition to home or an alternative care setting.
- No contract has been signed yet and the start date of these partnerships has not yet been determined.
- The only other TCUs in North Dakota are located in Bismarck, N.D.