ST. PETERSBURG — Coming soon to the fourth floor of Bayfront Medical Center: The smell of freshly baked cookies, ambient music and a color palette anchored by an inviting yellow called Golden Retriever.
No one will mistake Suncoast Hospice House Bayfront, opening early next year, for a traditional hospital unit.
"Our goal really is to create a very different experience for patients and families," said Scott Kistler, the Suncoast Hospice vice president overseeing the project. "It looks more like home; it smells more like home.
"Most importantly, we want families to see that patients are experiencing real comfort and dignity in their final moments," he added.
The hospital-based hospice, the only one of its kind in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, will feature 12 beds, providing palliative care to terminally ill patients who are too fragile to travel to a freestanding hospice house.
While Bayfront currently partners with the hospice to care for terminally ill patients, hospital leaders say the unit will expand their continuum of care. It will bring to the Bayfront campus the full menu of services provided by hospice doctors, nurses, counselors and social workers, including alternative therapies such as reiki.
"If you are in the ICU unit now, the focus is on saving patients and very aggressive care," said Dr. David Weiland, Bayfront's vice president of medical affairs, who previously worked at Suncoast Hospice. "This is an opportunity to go to some place that has a more homelike atmosphere that is much quieter and the focus of the care is on comfort and controlling symptoms and not responding immediately."
He said the new unit should also help Bayfront's primary care doctors stay in closer contact with their patients through their final weeks. Right now, many find it difficult to travel to visit patients at the freestanding hospice houses in Pinellas Park and Palm Harbor.
The unit will have its own entrance, so visitors will not have to go through the emergency room.
Guests, including children and pets, can come at any hour of the day or night.
Beds with wooden headboards and plush mattresses are among the features intended to evoke a homelike setting. The unit's private rooms feature sleeper sofas and reclining chairs for patients that can be wheeled around the floor.
"It's a very warm, cozy, comfortable kind of place — as much as we can do for them," said Pat Lucas, program director for the unit.
Charitable giving is expected to cover $300,000 in renovation and furnishing costs, with Bayfront paying for construction and Suncoast Hospice for furnishings. The unit is scheduled to open in early January. Hospice will pay rent to the hospital for the space, with the hospice assuming full responsibility for the medical care of the patients within the unit.
Bayfront recently said it was ceasing some outpatient cancer treatments, which were losing money, to focus time and attention on other needs, including the new hospice program.
A similar concept was tried previously at Palms of Pasadena Hospital, but it closed several years ago when the part of the hospital that housed the hospice was torn down.
In Hillsborough, LifePath Hospice does not have plans for any similar units.
Letitia Stein can be reached at email@example.com.