Deaton to change name, focus

Long-term hospital is to be known as University Specialty

October 06, 2001|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Tomorrow, Deaton Specialty Hospital and Home officially becomes University Specialty Hospital.

The new name reflects a change in focus - Deaton closed its nursing home this past summer to concentrate on its chronic care programs - and its connection with the University of Maryland Medical System.

James E. Ross, chief executive officer, said the new name should make clear to the community that the institution has changed.

"When you have a history of 27 years, people think of Deaton as a nursing home," he said.

Deaton was founded in the early 1970s as a nursing home by Christ Lutheran Church, and is next to the church near Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

In the '80s, the church expanded Deaton's services to include specialty care, first in leased space in what is now Harbor Hospital Center, then in a new wing. University of Maryland Medical System bought Deaton in 1996.

As a hospital specializing in treating patients with long-term needs such as patients on ventilators, people in comas and those with brain injuries, Deaton has "niche, boutique programs," Ross said.

How different Deaton is from acute-care hospitals is shown in how long the average patient stays.

At Deaton, it's about 60 days for ventilator patients and 48 days for others. At acute-care hospitals in Maryland, the average length of stay is 4.7 days, according to the Maryland Hospital Association.

"Deaton Nursing Home was competing with 250 other nursing homes in the state," Ross said. "There are only a handful of other chronic hospitals."

According to the MHA, the only licensed hospitals in the state that do not take acute patients, other than psychiatric hospitals, are Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital - which has patients similar to Deaton's - and two very different facilities, Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Kernan Hospital, like Deaton part of the University of Maryland Medical System, has many specialty patients but some acute patients as well for its orthopedic surgery service. In addition to the specialty hospitals, such care is also given in some "subacute" units at regular hospitals, and at some nursing homes.

Since Medicare changed its reimbursement system for subacute care in nursing homes, "it drove the patients from the nursing homes to the specialty hospitals," said Ron Rothstein, president and chief operating officer at Levindale. While five years ago Levindale might typically have 10 or so ventilator patients, it now averages about 30, he said.

With about 100 beds, Levindale's specialty units are operating at capacity, and the facility is working on a plan to convert some of its nursing home beds for specialty care, he said.

That's similar to what happened at Deaton. It was operating 120 beds in the specialty unit before the nursing home shut. It moved some offices into vacated space in the nursing home, opening up additional specialty beds. It expects to have 166 beds by the end of this month.

Eventually, it plans to go to the 180 permitted by its license. Closing the nursing home not only made space available, but what is a scarcer resource these days - nurses and other staff.

"Health care workers are scarce," Ross said. "We're utilizing our staff for what we think the market wants, and for what meets our mission and vision."

Although it will be running some small advertisements of its new name, Deaton doesn't plan a marketing campaign because it gets most of its patients as they are discharged from acute-care hospitals and need continued care.

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