SPRING HILL — Hernando-Pasco Hospice is expanding to meet the growing needs of terminally ill patients in Hernando County.
Site preparation is under way at the hospice campus on Cortez Boulevard for a 24-bed private facility to serve patients in need of round-the-clock intensive or specialized care. To be known as A Place Like This, the $6-million facility is expected to open early next year.
"We did a survey: Are we meeting the needs of patients?'' explained Robin Kocher, director of community relations. "Sixty-four percent of deaths in Hernando County last year were served by hospice. The statewide average is 58 percent."
In Hernando, hospice cared for 1,521 patients and their families, Kocher said, noting that HPH is the only hospice serving Hernando.
Since 2000, the hospice has leased a 13-room wing at Brooksville Health Care Center off Broad Street, west of the city. It's not enough space.
"(It) stays full all the time," said Kocher. "If we don't have a bed available, we have 24-hour care in home until a bed becomes available."
There is also a difference in the available amenities.
"With our own building," explained Kocher, "our patient rooms are larger.
"Patients who come to our center are experiencing acute symptoms, acute pain, coming to us from a hospital. Families want to be there."
Half of the hospice patients prefer to stay at home, but some need institutional attention because the in-home caregiver may be frail, the patient may be a single person, or the family has to work, Kocher explained.
Hospice is a lifesaver financially. There is no cost for care to the patient and family. Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurers provide a hospice benefit.
"About 12 percent of our patients have no source of payment," noted Kocher, so the Hernando-Pasco Hospice Foundation pays the bill. The nonprofit foundation operates with donations and money from fundraisers sponsored by civic groups and organizations, as well as by United Way of Hernando County.
"A lot of family members who have had patients in our care ask for memorial gifts to hospice rather than funeral flowers," she said.
Hospice seeks to provide a homey environment, beds with headboards and footboards, quality sheets, and comforters and quilts handmade by volunteers.
"There's also a pull-out couch that turns into a bed (for a family member stay-over), also a recliner chair and extra chairs scattered about."
Carpeting and wallpaper add to the residential ambience.
Patients at the new facility will be able to request specific meals from the in-house kitchen.
"Also, families will be able to order soup and sandwiches (from the kitchen)," Kocher added.
The average patient stay is three to five days.
"Most of the patients are coming to us with a limited prognosis," she said.
Accepted is anyone with an end-of-life disease. While hospice is primarily known for its care of cancer patients, Kocher said others suffering from such terminal illnesses as ALS, heart disease, lung disease and Alzheimer's are welcomed.
HPH is trying to raise $1-million from the community.
"We thought that was as much as we could raise in a short time," Kocher said. The remaining $5-million will be financed.
"The need is so great we decided to go forward," she said.
The new center will replicate the 24-bed facility that hospice operates in New Port Richey. It is staffed by 57 full- and part-time employees, plus 50 volunteers. Hospice expects the same staffing for the Hernando unit.
Hospice's overall budget for serving Hernando, Pasco and Citrus counties runs to $60-million annually and includes in-house pharmacies, a medical equipment department and a nonprofit home health care agency.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.