Treating homeless patients costs Queen's Medical Center millions

Treating homeless patients costs Queen’s Medical Center millions
Published: Sep. 21, 2015 at 9:46 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 21, 2015 at 10:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, The Queen's Medical Center's two hospitals treated 3,441 patients who were homeless.

"They're some that come almost daily," emergency room physician Han Park said.

He said many of the homeless he's treated suffer from severe ailments like congestive heart failure, diabetes and high-blood pressure.

"Some of these patients are sick enough that they end up having conditions that end up requiring hospitalization or emergent care," Park said.

Nine out of ten cases were treated in Queen's emergency rooms.  And many of them involved patients who made more than one visit. Over the past two fiscal years, Queen's has cared for an unsheltered patient 12,271 times at a price tag of more than $5 million a year.

Queen's Sr. vice president of operations said that's money that will go uncompensated.

"It definitely does impact us.  But at the same time, we are committed to caring for these patients," Cindy Kamikawa said.

Nearly 80 percent of homeless patients Queen's treated the past two years had medical insurance.  More than half of them had Medicaid coverage and a smaller percentage were insured through Medicare.

"Sometimes the insurance payments are not always comparable to the cost of care that is provided," Kamikawa said.

Judy Suzuki oversees case management at Straub Clinic and Hospital.

"I've been doing this for over fifteen years, and we've never seen so many homeless coming through our doors to our ER as well as in our hospital," she said.

At Queen's, most of the homeless patients were men. Three quarters of the cases were medical cases, while one-fourth were diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or neuro-developmental disorder.

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