County's first subacute center expected to open in January ANNE ARUNDEL HEALTH

June 29, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

The county's first subacute care unit, for patients too sick to go home but not sick enough to need hospital-level care, will open in January, administrators of Meridian Healthcare said yesterday.

Betty B. Betler, the center's administrator, said the 55,000-square-foot facility in Annapolis, combining a 20-bed subacute care unit with a 114-bed nursing home, is about 50 percent completed. Meridian broke ground on the project six months ago.

"This will bridge the gap between the hospital and home," said Ms. Betler, adding that patients will most likely be referred directly from two county hospitals.

Ms. Betler said Meridian executives believe subacute centers are the "wave of the future," because the cost of care there is less expensive than in hospitals.

"Right now, a lot of patients stay in the hospital, even if they don't really need to be there," she said. "This costs far less, yet patients can get the care they need."

The cost of subacute care will be between $200 to $800 a day, depending on a patient's needs. Hospital stays cost $500 a day and up, Ms. Betler said. Medicare will cover up to 100 days at the facility and Meridian is negotiating with other insurance companies to work out coverage plans, she said.

Patients who have had joint-replacement surgery, hip fractures, amputations or strokes are the types of cases likely to be referred to the center, Ms. Betler said.

Nancy L. Hemby, spokeswoman for Anne Arundel Medical Center, said hospital administrators have been discussing the concept with Meridian but don't know yet how the hospital will participate.

"It's a new concept and we're interested in exploring it. We're just not sure yet how extensive our involvement will be," she said. "Everyone is looking at unique delivery systems, so we have been discussing how we might work together."

The subacute service differs from more traditional convalescent care, where patients also can recover after hospitalization, because the level of medical care is higher, serving patients with "complex medical needs," Ms. Betler said.

Meridian will offer occupational, physical and speech therapy; laboratory services; podiatry and dental care; massage and exercise therapy; stroke and orthopedic rehabilitation; pain management and many other services.

Although the subacute center is the unique feature of Meridian's new facility, the bulk of the building will be devoted to a 114-bed nursing home. Before Meridian sought state approval to build the $6 million structure in 1986, it monitored openings in nursing homes in the area and determined additional beds were needed.

But before it could break ground, the company needed approval from the state Health Resources Planning Commission, which regulates hospitals and long-term care. After two years of hearings and legal battles over the facility's design, the state granted approval in 1988.

Meridian, which has headquarters in Towson, operates 36 nursing homes and retirement facilities in five states, including 20 in Maryland. The company has two other nursing homes in Anne Arundel County -- in Severna Park and Brooklyn Park. It opened its first subacute center in Lakeside, Fla., a year ago.

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