SPRING HILL — Hernando Lodge, an affiliate of Hernando-Pasco Hospice at Atria Evergreen Woods, will close by February.
The facility has not proven cost effective; it has lost money since opening in February 2007, said Robin Kocher, director of community relations for hospice.
"It started as an assisted living facility as a pilot program to see if we could fill that gap between the traditional ALF that accepts patients that are relatively healthy to where people could age in place," Kocher explained.
"Although the concept did work — there is a need in the community — and the care that the people got was well-received, we were losing $200,000 a year," she said.
The lodge contains 10 units, eight of which are currently occupied.
"Basically, we need a larger facility to balance the budget," Kocher said. "If we had a larger facility, we'd probably do fine. Unfortunately, we can't go further; costs are too high."
Employees at the lodge number 11. Add to their wages the cost of medications, food, rent to Atria and transportation. Of the latter, Kocher said the two-county hospice budget has risen by half a million dollars because of rising gasoline prices. The agency couldn't absorb the outlay.
Residents paid rent, unlike other hospice programs, which are free. But the lodge was an affiliate, not a hospice facility, Kocher pointed out.
"Most of the care we provide is in the community, not in a facility," she said.
The hospice lease with Atria runs out in February.
"We wanted to be sure to give the residents plenty of notice to make alternative plans," Kocher said.
Already, four have found new living arrangements.
"We have assigned two social workers to help those families find alternative living arrangements," Kocher said. "We are doing whatever we can to find them another place to live."
If the residents want to visit various facilities, hospice is arranging transportation for them to do so, she said.
Wherever they go, if they qualify for hospice care, the care will still be delivered, Kocher said.
As for the employees at the lodge, "All of them are being offered positions in hospice or our home health care agencies," Kocher said. "No one is going to lose their job."
Lynn Bloom, executive director at Atria Evergreen Woods, said the lodge will be converted back to retirement living units.
The Hernando Lodge is separate from another project hospice has under way at its campus on Cortez Boulevard: a 24-bed facility to serve patients in need of round-the-clock intensive or specialized care.
Beth Gray can be reached at email@example.com.