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Janice Claussen was ready to be discharged from the Shuksan Healthcare Center in Whatcom County. (Photo: KOMO News)

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- After more than a month at Shuksan Healthcare Center in Whatcom County, Janice Claussen was ready to be discharged.

"This is a wonderful place. Everybody is great. But I want to go home," the 85-year old said on her final day. Claussen did rehabilitation at Shuksan after a hospital stay for a complication with her knee replacement, and she was ready to be back on her own.

But statewide, one in every 10 patients in a skilled nursing home winds up back in the hospital instead of going home. Frequently, it's because of an infection.

Dr. Ahmet Tural is an infectious-disease specialist. "We deal with elderly population here, and they're unique in several aspects," Dr. Tural said. "They're often immuno-compromised, and they're more vulnerable, more susceptible to infection and severe infection."

Tural and Dr. George Diaz, who also specializes in infectious disease, consult with the Shuksan staff when a patient gets sick. They manage what's called an antibiotic-stewardship program - something that will be a government requirement later this year.

"It's estimated that roughly 50% of the treatment for infections is inappropriate or incorrect," Diaz said. "Our program really looked at making sure people are getting the right care at the right time."

The doctors both practice out of Everett and saw the antibiotic-stewardship program at their hospital making a difference. So they developed a similar protocol that could be applied at skilled nursing facilities.

Shuksan's program has been in place since September of last year - and staff sees a difference. "We have been able to actually so far since we've been in practice with the antibiotic stewardship, have had zero hospital readmissions due to infection," said Director of Nursing Services R.N. Laurie House.

Shuskan believes it's the first nursing facility in the state to implement a program led by doctors. The U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will require all skilled nursing facilities to have similar programs later this year.

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