Survey: Discharge Delays Burdening Minnesota Hospitals

A survey of Minnesota hospitals found persistent and ongoing delays in emergency department discharges and inpatient care, resulting in tens of thousands of days of unnecessary patient care at the hospital level and financial losses for hospitals. .

The survey of 101 hospitals by the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) follows similar data collection by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in the first five months of 2023, which found more than 76,245 days of unnecessary hospital care. The new survey found an additional 65,555 days of unnecessary patient stays from June to October. (The new data reflects typical seasonal variation in hospital care, as well as changes in administrative data collection, according to MHA.) These surveys represent an annual total of nearly 195,000 patient-days of avoidable, unpaid care. This stagnation of patients not only reduces the overall capacity for hospital care; It also cost Minnesota hospitals and health systems an estimated $487 million in uncompensated care, the MHA said.

“Minnesota hospitals have gone from being a safety net to being a center of patient care,” Minnesota Hospital Association CEO and President Rahul Koranne, MD, MBA, said in a statement. “This is a function they were never designed for, which they cannot afford, and which is not good for patients. This gridlock prevents Minnesotans from getting the care their lives depend on. Policymakers must act.”

These delays include patients stuck in hospital beds waiting to be transferred to nursing homes, rehabilitation units, mental health treatment centers and other sub-acute care facilities. The latest survey also found that hospitals provided 9,223 days of emergency department stays, often people stuck waiting for hospital care or simply taken to a hospital for lack of any other alternative. These stays increased waits for other patients needing care and forced some patients to seek care elsewhere, with a potentially life-altering delay.

MHA also argues that this level of uncompensated care is unsustainable and is a root cause of the financial difficulties of hospitals across the country, combined with payers not covering the full costs of care and rapidly rising costs. In the first half of 2023, 67 percent of Minnesota hospitals reported operating losses. Two hospitals recently closed in western Wisconsin.

Koranne noted that the Minnesota Department of Health already held three hearings on hospital service closures in January, half the total for all of last year in Minnesota. “We are at a critical point,” she said. “Our hospitals are facing immense financial pressure. We need real, immediate financial assistance from the legislature in the coming weeks to prevent further service or facility closures and ensure access to quality health care for all Minnesotans.”

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