Still weak after suffering a massive heart attack, Paula Mota learned last year that her health was worse than she thought.
Doctors discovered that the 58-year-old Arlington woman also had tumors throughout her body. A home visit pilot program by the Arlington Fire Department is helping both her spirits and her health, said her daughter, Alejandra Yokley.
“She is more positive about life now,” Yokley said. “Even though she has cancer and heart problems, I think shes going to be fine now. She’s stronger now, she’s happier.”
Once a week, Arlington firefighters visit her to make sure she’s taking her medication, exercising and eating healthy. They draw Mota’s blood, monitor her heart, blood pressure and blood sugar, gauge her pain levels and report all findings to her nurses and doctors in an effort to catch any complications early.
“That’s my angels,” Mota said as the firefighters made sure she was comfortable on her daughter’s couch last week before they began their routine medical work-up.
Arlington fire officials said the pilot program aims to help congestive heart failure patients follow their doctors’ advice and not neglect their health, which could land them back in the emergency room not long after being discharged from the hospital. The Community Health pilot program, which started in February and will run 90 days, is sponsored by Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital and Medical Center Arlington.
“A lot of the patients we see, they call 911 numerous times,” said Jason Adams, a Fire Department engineer. “This allows us to come out and see them ahead of time before their medical problems get any worse and before they have emergent issues, and we are able to go out and address those and keep them out of the hospital.”
As part of the Hospital Re-admissions Reduction Program, the Affordable Care Act allows Medicare to reduce payments to hospitals with high numbers of patients who are readmitted within 30 days of being discharged.
So far hospitals have referred about 14 patients, including Mota, to the program, said Battalion Chief Brent Shanklin, who oversees the Community Health pilot program. Firefighters visit the patient’s home, checking for dangers such as nonworking smoke detectors and trip hazards, and also to conduct a thorough medical assessment for the hospital.
Patients may also be linked to social services. With the help of charities such as Mission Arlington, some patients have been provided with a new bed for their homes, transportation to the pharmacy or financial assistance to fill prescriptions.
“If they can’t afford their medicines, they can’t take their medicines and they wind up in the emergency room,” Shanklin said. “It’s a bad cycle. We’re trying to break the cycle.”
Shanklin said the Fire Department will evaluate whether to continue to program, which could expand to include participation by additional Arlington medical facilities, after the 90-day pilot period ends.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639