TEMPLE TERRACE — Two well-known Tampa Bay hospice programs could soon be part of the same nonprofit corporation, yet another sign of the growing trend of consolidation in health care.
HPH Hospice, which serves Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, has signed a letter of intent to affiliate with Chapters Health System, the parent company of Hillsborough's LifePath Hospice.
The two nonprofits are finalizing the details of the transaction and expect the affiliation to be complete in December. HPH Hospice would keep its name and foundation.
The affiliation would allow HPH to centralize much of its administrative overhead. Chapters, in exchange, gets to expand its footprint north.
Bigger is often thought to be better in health care these days as hospitals and physicians look for ways to increase their bargaining power amid coming changes in how they'll be paid. Hospices might increasingly be part of that trend, as well.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has heard about an increasing number of consolidations, acquisitions and affiliations among hospice providers, spokesman Jon Radulovic said.
Among the reasons are new requirements to hit certain quality benchmarks and uncertainty about future Medicare reimbursements, Radulovic said.
"There are so many more demands in running a hospice than a decade ago," he said.
The local announcement comes a month after Chapters eliminated 89 jobs, 64 of which were filled at the time. Chapters spokeswoman Jenna Paladino said Thursday those layoffs are coincidental and not connected to the planned affiliation.
"The affiliation of HPH Hospice and Chapters Health will provide opportunities that allow our not-for-profit organizations to increase our provision of quality health care and to expand access to care for larger numbers of persons in our communities who need our extensive services," said Kathy Fernandez, Chapters Health president and CEO.
"With continuously changing state and federal regulations and reimbursement practices in today's environment, it takes a tremendous amount of education and financial strength to maintain quality, compassionate care," said Tom Barb, HPH Hospice president and CEO.
In addition to HPH and LifePath, there are two other local hospice providers: Suncoast Hospice in Pinellas and Gulfside Hospice in Pasco.
Said Suncoast president and CEO Rafael J. Sciullo: "It is not surprising to see new partnerships being formed as hospice and health care providers focus on keeping up with changing times and at the same time seek to ensure that uninterrupted care is available for patients and families."