Francis Scott Key Medical Center is seeking patients for a new, 16-bed "Post-Acute AIDS Unit" built for people well enough to leave the hospital but still too sick to care for themselves at home.
The new unit opened July 22 in a former long-term care unit in the Mason F. Lord building. Only two patients were being cared for there yesterday, but a half-dozen more were expected to be admitted soon. Planners expect no trouble filling the beds in the East Baltimore facility.
"Unfortunately, the need is much greater than the number of beds available. I think we will be running at capacity most of the time," said Dr. Richard E. Chaisson, director of the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service, which is collaborating in the project.
Dr. Chaisson said there are an estimated 30,000 people in Maryland infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. Perhaps 2,000 of them are sick with acquired immune deficiency syndrome complications, half of those in Baltimore.
Currently, only one nursing home and two hospices in Maryland have made special efforts to take in AIDS patients, he said.
That has left hundreds more living alone in "less than ideal" circumstances at home, often without help with nutrition, personal hygiene and medication, Dr. Chaisson said. Others remain in hospitals, "where they really don't need to be," he said.
In the new unit at Key, "we will be able to deliver comprehensive care for patients in need of frequent medical monitoring, or who need help with the activities of daily living, such as eating or bathing," said Dr. Judy A. Reitz, vice president for patient care at Key.
The staff will include physical, respiratory and occupational therapists, social workers, family and mental health counselors, as well as the "full range of nursing care service," she said.
The average length of stay is expected to be 45 days, but individuals could be in the program six months or more. xTC "Ultimately, we want to return the patients to their homes, if at all possible," Dr. Reitz said.
Some, however, will remain until they die.