Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Economy Dims Occupational Rewards of Hospital Social Workers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Economy Dims Occupational Rewards of Hospital Social Workers

Article excerpt

occupational rewards that come from working with people who are sick often are rich indeed. But the low points are very low, acknowledgesSt. Anthony's Terry Davis. Her associate, Roberta Carmack, agrees.

What is going on inside the hospitals is influenced in large measure by fluctuations in the economy. As the economy weakens and budgetary pressures mount in the face of falling revenues, cutbacks in governmental programs make a bad situation worse.

Increasingly, the social workers are confronted by patients and the families of patients who no longer can pay their bills. Benefits often are exhausted or non-existent. Not everybody enjoys the protection of health insurance coverage. Not every individual without the resources to pay for care necessarily qualifies for Medicaid. For the elderly, Medicare pays only a portion of the bill.

The social workers, who daily come face to face with these realities, must deal with them on a personal level during the phase known as discharge planning. The financial crises seem to crowd in most acutely on patients who have to be released to nursing homes or chronic care centers.

Among Roberta Carmack's patients, "easily half of them have no ability to pay."

Medicare patients have some protection, but cutbacks in Medicaid and other programs are viewed as alarming.

"Cutbacks in Medicaid may not have much impact on the average person," says Carmack. "We see the effects a lot. Friends might be shocked."

At St. Anthony, the social workers make clear, the policy is not to turn away any patient who lacks financial resources. But they, perhaps along with others, wonder what is wrong when so many in a civilized society are slipping through the safety net.

"I blame it on ignorance," says Davis. "Most of us don't want to take responsibility. …

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