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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Interagency protocol proposed to prevent abandonment of hospitalized seniors

Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera

By The Star Staff

Developing a uniform interagency protocol that activates the relevant agencies when an unaccompanied older adult is admitted as a patient in a hospital was one of the proposals designed by a task force organized by Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera to deal with the crisis of the abandonment of elderly patients in health care facilities.

“The abandonment of elderly people in hospitals has become a real health situation,” the at-large senator said. “We must be proactive. Therefore, we are presenting our proposal to create a new uniform interagency protocol that is activated from the moment an older person, who cannot be identified, enters a hospital. That way, the corresponding agencies are aware of the admission, an agile protocol can be activated to investigate why they are alone, locate their relatives and plan the discharge process and subsequent care. In this way, we are placing greater safeguards to prevent them from being abandoned to their fate when they leave the hospital.”

“The fact that the agencies know the pertinent data of the older adult supports the hospital system if he or she is abandoned since all the agencies working with this [protocol] already know about the case, and thus we cut the time of response and intervention,” Riquelme added. “This new uniform protocol also provides a prevention mechanism since the agencies will be in continuous contact with the relatives of the hospitalized person during their stay in the facility.”

The meeting of the working group took place last week in the José Joaquín “Yiye” Ávila room, located in the Baltazar Corrada del Río building at the Capitol. Administration for Families and Children (ADFAN by its Spanish acronym) head Glenda Gerena, Medical Services Administration social work supervisor María Rodríguez, and representatives from the Association of Retired Persons of America, the Office of the Elderly Advocate, the Association of Hospital Administrators, the Puerto Rico Teen Challenge program and Hogares Crea attended the meeting.

According to data provided by ADFAN, during the first three months of this year, 529 older adults were abandoned in hospitals throughout the island, almost double the figures from 2017 to 2019.

“Our legislative team is evaluating other proposals we will present to address this problem,” Riquelme said. “But, as I said, sitting idly by is not an option. Initiatives like this forum allow the free exchange of new ideas that help to mitigate the situation.”

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