BROOKSVILLE — Changes in the way families are handling the care of loved ones with terminal illnesses has led to a round of layoffs at HPH Hospice.
HPH, formerly Hernando-Pasco Hospice, recently announced it is laying off 19 continuous care nurses and seven support staffers out of a total work force of 853.
"The trend of people using continuous care in their homes vs. using our hospice care centers has changed," said Robin Kocher, spokeswoman for the nonprofit agency. "We had more nurses than we had patients to give them."
With the completion of the new Spring Hill Center, HPH also has decided to end the lease at its Hudson facility on Monday, transferring patients to a center of their choice. All staff from the Hudson care center will be offered positions at other locations, Kocher said.
Kocher said demand for center-based care has increased; as a result, the need for continuous care nurses, who manage complicated symptoms and pain in the home, has dropped.
Although hospice is traditionally known for end-of-life care at home, 6 percent of local hospice care is given at HPH Hospice's centers.
HPH Hospice, which serves about 3,500 patients a year, has seen a trend in families wanting to use the care centers, Kocher said.
"They are traditionally for a patient who is very newly diagnosed and has a lot of pain issues," she added. "Often they are coming out of the hospital and it's overwhelming for the family. They have just been told the illness is terminal."
In most situations, these families are dealing with a long-term terminal illness and have been caregivers for a long time.
"When the patient reaches the last couple of days, the caregiver is exhausted and overwhelmed, and is watching their loved one decline," Kocher said. "They're opting to have their loved ones in a care center … (Then) they can go back to being a loved one rather than a caregiver."
Before the layoffs, HPH Hospice worked to absorb staff in other areas. Everyone else was given a severance, Kocher said. "We did have a few positions that were available," Kocher said. "Those who wanted those positions accepted them."
HPH Hospice began experimenting with care centers in 1999, leasing space within nursing homes, Kocher said. They have since built their own care centers in New Port Richey, Dade City, and most recently on State Road 50 in Spring Hill. The agency also leases space for a care center in Citrus County.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.