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New healthcare report sheds light on the cost of caring for homeless hospital patients

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A new study based out of London, Ont. is shedding light on the impact - and cost - of caring for homeless hospital patients.

"We've been saying for some time that housing status is a health intervention,” said study co-author and Lawson Health Research Institute scientist Dr. Cheryl Forchuk.

Since 2018, Canadian hospitals have been documenting when a patient experiencing homelessness (PEH) is admitted or discharged from a hospital.

"I think it really reinforces something we already know in London and we've been showing the way in my ways, that you can't ignore housing status when you are talking about health,” added Dr. Forchuk.

National numbers show about 30,000 people last year who were admitted to the hospital were living without housing before and after hospital care, leading to increased healthcare needs.

"The hospital stays were longer, it was more expensive, that’s because when someone comes to hospital experiencing homelessness, they tend to be very sick,” explained Dr. Forchuk.

The average length of stay for patients experiencing homelessness was 15 days, with the cost per patient coming in at just under $17,000 — twice the national average.

The top three reasons for hospitalizations were substance use disorders, schizophrenic disorders, and cellulitis (a bacterial infection).

Dr. Forchuk said it's important to make people aware about the connection between housing and healthcare, pointing to a number of ways that housing investments can also benefit Canada’s strained health care system.

"Sometimes people say we can't afford to do things, but this really says you really can't afford not too," said Dr. Forchuk.

 

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