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VERIFY: Yes, people who need skilled nursing care are sitting in Maine hospitals

MaineHealth said every hospital in its system has patients who could be discharged if an appropriate placement could be found for them at a skilled nursing facility.

NORWAY, Maine — The workforce shortage in long-term care facilities is causing facilities to close or prevent them from taking on new patients. Some of those patients are ending up in the hospital.

THE QUESTION

Mary from Norway asked the VERIFY team:

"I have heard that there are nursing home residents who are taking up hospital rooms at Stephens Memorial Hospital … they are not sick, just nursing home residents but have been moved to the hospital??"

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

WHAT WE FOUND

A MaineHealth spokesperson said in an e-mail:

"At every hospital across the MaineHealth system, including our eight hospitals in Maine, there are patients who could be discharged if an appropriate placement could be found for them at a skilled nursing facility or another setting with transitional support services. 

Patients brought to the hospital for acute conditions often transition to such a facility for their recovery, and for some a permanent placement at such a facility is appropriate. This shortage of nursing home beds is a big contributor to the overall capacity challenges we are facing across our system at this time."

The Maine Health Care Association's CEO, Angela Westhoff, confirmed this statewide issue, but could not say if the situation at Stephens Hospital was related to any specific facility closing down.

"It just means that facilities may delay admissions because there aren't staff available to treat all of the residents and take care of them, so that's why there is a backup in the hospitals," Westhoff said.

So why is this happening?

It's due to a lack of skilled nursing workers, causing facilities to limit the number of new patients, or in some cases, close down completely.

"It's very interconnected," Westhoff said. "It's just a very challenging situation and those institutions are also experiencing their own issues with staffing."

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