Community Partner Spotlight: Edward Thomas House

Edward Thomas House is named after a patient who got back on his feet in the program after decades of homelessness and chronic illness. Operated by Harborview Medical Center, the facility offers short-term, recuperative care to homeless patients who are too ill to return to the streets or a shelter after a hospital stay.

Lovett Harris (left), mental ​health specialist, and Jonathan Kilian, clinical social worker, stand near the portrait of Edward Thomas.

Located in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, Edward Thomas House took care of 19 Virginia Mason patients last year who were discharged, but in need of continuing medical support. Services provided at Edward Thomas House include post-operative care, palliative care, cancer treatment and therapy for wounds and infections. Unlike in a hospital or nursing home, patients must be able to walk or operate a wheelchair. The average stay is about three weeks, though patients can stay for up to three months.

“The comprehensive and compassionate services at Edward Thomas House help people who are ill or disabled regain their health and access other basic needs,” says Kellie Meserve, RN, director, Care Transitions. “It’s reassuring to know that our case managers and social workers can refer appropriate patients to this top-notch medical respite program.”

Programs like Edward Thomas House gained traction in the 1980s, but have grown in the last decade to around 80 facilities nationwide. One of four facilities in Washington state, Edward Thomas House is among the country’s largest, with 34 patient beds. In addition to addressing patients’ medical needs, the program’s social workers connect patients with other supports, including mental health care, drug treatment and help with permanent housing.

National studies show medical respite programs like Edward Thomas House decrease future emergency room visits and hospital stays for the patients they serve, saving millions of dollars in health care costs while improving outcomes. For dedicated clinicians like Kellie, it’s another powerful tool in the patient care tool box.

“Edward Thomas House provides an invaluable resource for Virginia Mason and our community,” says Kellie.

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