By Kelly Bruno
President and CEO, National Health Foundation
Tom lived in Los Angeles. You might have seen him; passed by him as he found shelter for himself alongside a freeway. Like nearly 45,000 others, he was homeless.
After years of living on the streets, his health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. He was estranged from his two children and aside from one friend, was entirely alone.
What happens to homeless people who fall ill? Typically, a hospital stay is followed by a return to the streets. But can we really expect someone to heal on the streets exposed to the elements, without proper nutrition, and no follow up?
Many homeless people who have experienced a hospital stay face additional setbacks that land them back in the hospital, and this can be very expensive. Of course, if we think about the expense of repeated hospital stays, we are only looking at a part of the issue. What is the human cost of healthcare and homelessness?
After a stay at West Hills Hospital, Tom was admitted to PathwayRecuperative Care, a National Health Foundation program. This was possible only because West Hills Hospital chose to partner with Pathway Recuperative Care to ensure that Tom had a safe place to heal after he left their care.
One of our licensed nurses coordinated needed hospice services for Tom, and they were provided to him at our Pathway recuperative care facility. This was the care Tom needed as he neared the inevitable end of his life, and it was much less expensive for the hospital.
Tom had no family, and only one good friend. We made sure he could call his last remaining close friend whenever he needed to talk. NHF Social Services Coordinator Chere Daniels shared that Tom was quiet but friendly and communicative until the last few days when he started to deteriorate more rapidly and ultimately passed peacefully in his sleep.
While this may not sound like a typical success story, it is an important one to share. Because of West Hills Hospital’s partnership with our Pathway Recuperative Care program, Tom did not die alone, homeless on the streets of LA, but rather spent his last days being cared for in a compassionate and supportive environment.
Our vision is that every individual, regardless of who they are or where they live, should have access to a comprehensive and compassionate system of care. We provided that access and compassion to Tom.
Thank you West Hills Hospital for helping us make a difference.