Swing Bed Coordinator and Acute Care Manager Pepper Swartzentruber (left) RN, BSN, MSN is pictured with Morrow County Hospital Director of Nursing Jessica Schwartz, RN, BSN.

Alberta Stojkovic | AIM Media Midwest

Retired Ohio State University extension agent and educator James Helt gave a glowing account of his two stays in the Swing Bed Program at the Morrow County Hospital (MCH).

His first experience was in 2015 following an accident at their farm in Muskingum County, and his stay was for several weeks. He was in the MCH Swing Bed Program again for a week in January this year following a hospitalization at The Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus.

“The nurses are outstanding, and the care is very good,” said Helt. “The program is just excellent in terms of care and also the facility.”

Helt also had words of praise for the food service, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy. “I’m amazed at how well I was cared for,” he added.

Helt’s wife, Marlene, a retired nurse, said, “The staff is also helpful to the spouse and family. They treat you with a lot of respect and want you to get well. They are also well-organized and caring. They spend time with you and answer questions.”

While the MCH Swing Bed Program has been in existence for several years, it has seen more than a 200% growth in its in-patient admissions this year. It’s called a Swing Bed Program because patients are able to switch or “swing” from in-patient acute care to skilled nursing care.

MCH Director of Nursing Jessica Schwartz credits much of the recent growth in numbers in the Swing Bed Program to building relationships with hospitals in Marion, Mansfield, and the surrounding areas. They send patients who are Morrow County residents after their surgeries and hospital stays. The Ohio State University and Galion hospitals also send patients and work collaboratively with MCH.

Schwartz explained the concept of the Swing Bed Program is to help patients regain their strength, who might be weak, or physically unable to return home after hip surgery, pneumonia, or other illnesses.

Examples of skilled care services offered are IV therapy, sterile dressing changes, skin and wound care, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy. The average length of stay is from 10 -12 days. Patients may stay up to 20 days or more if they meet Medicare or insurance qualifications.

Swing Bed Coordinator and Acute Care Manager Pepper Swartzentruber said MCH is able to have the program because of its status as a critical care hospital. To qualify for admission in the program when Medicare is the primary insurance provider, patients must have had an inpatient stay at a hospital of three consecutive days. Other insurance may require pre-certification. Patients must also have a need for skilled nursing and rehabilitation therapy only provided in a skilled nursing facility.

Swartzentruber works with the patient, nursing staff, and social services to coordinate arrangements when acute care is no longer needed, but patients aren’t physically able to go home.

Jason Gates, the MCH director of finance, said the Swing Bed Program has grown about 217% in its in-patient admissions in the first six months of this year in comparison to the first six months of 2022. He added it has the potential for even more growth in the future.

Gates said much of the success of the hospital’s financial outlook is being driven by greater than expected volumes, heavily focused on out-patient services such as surgeries and radiological procedures. In addition to outpatient offerings, the hospital leadership is still focused on increasing and enhancing in-patient services.

“With a renewed focus on the Swing Bed Program, the hospital offers a program that is extremely beneficial to the community while also providing MCH with another profitable service,” Gates said.

MCH CEO Michael Hyek agreed the Swing Bed Program “has helped the financial well-being” of the hospital.

Hyek said one of the best features of the Swing Bed Program is that it “allows those needing additional care to get the care closer to home and family.” Patients having surgeries in Columbus, Marion, or Mansfield can then have rehabilitation at MCH close to their homes.

Alberta Stojkovic is a correspondent for the Morrow County Sentinel.