ACH Focuses on Inpatient Rehab Unit in 2015
By Shannon Harsh, The Review, Published January 25, 2016
Each year, Alliance Community Hospital focuses on making progress with patient care and services offered to the community, and 2015 was no different.
While the hospital expanded health coach program partnership with the University of Mount Union, established Aultman Heart Center at ACH and began an innovative Telestroke program with Akron General Hospital, it also continued to strengthen its current programs.
With its move to the third floor of ACH from Community Care Center in the fall of 2014, the inpatient rehab unit settled in and continued its work during 2015.
Dr. Karen Gade-Pulido, medical director of the unit, said the hospital had a similar unit from 1996 to 2006, but did away with it when the new hospital building was built. However, a few years later, she said, the unit was brought back. “We realized that it provided a very important purpose and permanent continuity of care that was missing when we were without it,” she recalled.
The unit offers intensive treatment for a wide variety of patients who have functional deficits and are in need of multiple therapies due to things like spinal cord injuries, strokes, joint replacement or hip fractures and need assistance in getting back home.
“What we’re focusing on is trying to improve their quality of life and get them back home — allow them to return to the community doing the things that they were doing before,” the Duke University-trained doctor said. “That’s tricky when you have a patient who has had a stroke and has lost function on one side of their body so they’re not able to dress themselves, they’re not able to bathe, they’re not able to walk and some of them can’t even feed themselves; some of them can’t even swallow like they used to.”
She said the unit allows them to offer a higher intensity level of therapies, such as speech therapy to work on swallowing, occupational therapy to work on activities of daily living like getting dressed and physical therapy to work on improving their transfer ability and ability to ambulate. She said the patients may also be provided with adaptive equipment to allow them to perform functional tasks.
Gade-Pulido said the more recent move of location helps facilitate a multidisciplinary approach to care provided on the rehab unit and fosters better communication and interaction between all the members of the team, which may involve not only her, but also therapists, hospitalists and dieticians. “We have a whole team that’s working together and is able to work toward getting this person back home, back to doing the things that they like to do,” she said.
She said the average stay in the six-bed unit is 10 to 12 days, and the vast majority of patients (more than 90 percent) end up going home.
There are many success stories from her time with the rehab unit, but one that stuck out was a patient with neurological disorder Guillain-Barre, which causes generalized weakness and paralysis. “This gentleman came in and he wasn’t able to do very much for himself at all. He needed help with everything — dressing, bathing, eating, feeding himself, walking,” she recalled. She said recovery can vary with such deficits; however, he not only recovered well enough to go home after the intensive therapy, but he also ran the Hospice 5K a year later.
Gade-Pulido said they see a lot of patients who come in needing a lot of help when they first arrive but later walk out of the unit.
“It’s always fun to see that. That’s what’s rewarding about being here is seeing those folks come in, and many times they’re pretty desperate. Sometimes they feel kind of helpless and hopeless, but as they go through the program they really turn around, and it’s just amazing and wonderful to see that,” she said.
Gade-Pulido’s goal is for the inpatient rehab unit to be one of the best community-based units in northeast Ohio. “I think there’s a lot of potential here. I think it’s kind of a diamond in the rough in a lot of ways,” she said.
She explained patients often go to larger hospitals to get initial treatment for things like stroke or spinalcord injuries, but her hope is once they have received the acute care needed those patients will return to their hometown community for rehab, where the ACH staff can provide the comprehensive approach to care they need to get back on their feet and back home.
“I think this is something that people should consider,” she said.
She added that having to go to a rehab unit is not something people plan on, but it does happen, and she hopes area residents will consider ACH. “I want them to know that they have that option available to them right here in Alliance,” she concluded.
Dr. Karen Gade-Pulido is medical director of the Alliance Community Hospital inpatient rehab unit. With its move to the third floor of ACH from the Community Care Center in the fall of 2014, the inpatient rehab unit settled in and continued its work during 2015. (Photo coutesy of the Alliance Review January 25, 2016).