- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

More than 90 chronic lung patients will be displaced from their current facility at Inova Fairfax Hospital in March and receive therapy instead at the YMCA of Reston - which some say can’t provide the level of care the patients received at the hospital.

The hospital says it needs to increase space for a growing number of acute-care patients, and that the chronic maintenance patients need to learn to do more for their own rehabilitation,

Five of the patients spoke out against the change to The Washington Times last week, citing what they called a lack of planning for the new facility.

“The hospital says that acute patients take precedence to us chronic patients. Well, of course, but it doesn’t mean that we should be disposed of,” patient Mary Sullivan said.

Administrators considered the move for two years before settling on transferring the chronic patients to the YMCA. The patients said the YMCA is beautiful and well-equipped but does not perform the individualized functions of Inova, such as specified exercises and personal care for each patient’s recommended time per week.

“The environmental concerns of the YMCA versus the hospital are paramount,” Mrs. Sullivan said.

The maintenance program, which is not covered by insurance, includes regular pulmonary exercise, education about breathing techniques, and respiratory therapists who monitor progress and tailor programs to individual needs.

According to Dr. James Lamberti, medical director of respiratory care services at Inova, the hospital is dealing with a significant increase in acute-care patients and space has become tight.

“This is an area we are not slighting,” he said, “We sympathize with the patients’ plight, but some of the demands are well beyond what we are able to do.”

The pulmonary program at Inova is one of the largest in the nation, and the hospital does more pulmonary rehabilitation than any hospital in the country, Dr. Lamberti said.

“The story is the good that’s been done,” he said, noting that many more people could benefit from the program but cannot because of space constraints.

Mrs. Sullivan said that she is sure the hospital could create the space needed for them.

“They say there’s no space, but no thought has been put into this whatsoever,” she said.

The maintenance patients say they are not demanding too much but merely want the new facility to meet certain requirements and to be in a medical setting.

“We are being patronized,” patient Kathleen Feeney said. “There just has not been a comprehensive approach, and it is literally a matter of life or death.”

However, patient Peggy Endicott said she was very impressed with the services and trained staff at the Reston YMCA and the hospital’s approach to the change.

“I am on oxygen when I walk out the door,” she said. “I’ll just have to plan ahead to bring it. I need to exercise, whether I’m in the hospital or the YMCA.”

She said that the hospital has been proactive in its search and set up a focus group two years ago for patient input.

Dr. Lamberti said: “It is unfortunate that it has come to this, because I understand how much better they are after rehabilitation. We need to teach them to exercise, and hopefully they will be able to do it on their own.

“We’re trying our best. We’re not putting them through a program that overlooks them,” he said. “I wouldn’t direct a program that did.”

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