It was happening too often. A sick patient would come to the emergency department seeking care. After treatment, he or she would be sent home with a prescription. Days later, the patient would be back.
“What I saw at Swedish Covenant Hospital is that patients would be back a few days after their initial emergency department visit and be even sicker,” said Dr. Bruce McNulty, chairman of emergency medicine and president of Swedish Emergency Associates. “The patient would say that they went to the pharmacy to get their prescription filled and it was $200 so they couldn’t afford it.”
Dr. McNulty suggested a solution – to create a Helping Hands fund at Swedish Covenant Hospital to provide one-time assistance to patients in need. He saw this model work at other hospitals and recently replicated it in the emergency department at Swedish Covenant Hospital. The fund is paid for through the generosity of donors.
“It’s our way of doing the right thing,” Dr. McNulty said.
The medicines provided through this fund have included antibiotics, psychiatric drugs, maintenance medications, like blood pressure medication, and pain medication. Since the fund was created a year ago, 40 patients have received needed medications that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. The average cost for the medications provided through the fund is $100.
Dr. McNulty said that only those most in need receive medications through this fund.
“Many of the patients who have received medications through the fund are homeless – they are the most destitute in our community,” he said.
The fund also provides an opportunity to educate patients on preventative medicine, like an inhaler for asthma, or the importance of completing a full course of medication, according to Kimberly Leslie, clinical director of the emergency department.
“We are able to tell a patient that this antibiotic is so important for your healing process, that we want to make sure you take it and are paying for the medication for you,” Kimberly said.