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Hospice moves to protect its turf against newcomer

The executive director of Hernando-Pasco Hospice warns that the newer Hospice of Pasco could undermine its financial stability.

The established hospice provider in east Pasco moved to protect its turf Monday with a letter to businesses and doctors warning them not to be confused by another agency's move into the area next week.

In a letter signed by executive director Rodney Taylor, Hernando-Pasco Hospice warns that newcomer Hospice of Pasco Inc. is moving in, threatening the older agency's base of donations.

"Having two hospices in a small community will most certainly dilute the impact of the area's limited resources and undermine the stability of both agencies," Taylor's letter warns.

Kathy Hirstius, executive director of Hospice of Pasco Inc., said Thursday there is room for two agencies, and they won't harm each other.

"Unfortunately, there's always a need for our services," Hirstius said. "We've never said anything bad about them (Hernando-Pasco Hospice). Competition is good for the soul."

While Hernando-Pasco Hospice has been active in east Pasco since the 1980s and is preparing to build an eight-bed inpatient center along Clinton Avenue, Hospice of Pasco will start accepting in-home patients Monday and hopes to open its own five-bed inpatient center along Fort King Road by the end of the month.

Hirstius said she doesn't understand the other agency's objections or concerns and noted that in the 10 years since her agency _ then known as Gulfside Hospice _ started out, neither has suffered.

Hernando-Pasco Hospice spokeswoman Robin Kocher said keeping the agencies separate in people's minds is important for her organization.

"Most people assume that there is a national organization, that we're all chapters of the same one, and we all provide the same services," she said. "That's just not the case."

Her agency, she said, provides more support services for hospice patients than those required for certification, and the group needs community donations to pay for the extra services and the free care and counseling they provide.

Hernando-Pasco Hospice runs bereavement camps for children and community education and AIDS programs and provides care to anyone who needs it, even if they don't have any money or insurance.

"Over the last three years, the (east Pasco) community raised about $108,000 for the house on Clinton Avenue. . . . Then they raised in just a few months another $200,000 for the house," she said. "The people have made an investment in this hospice. What we're doing is asking them to protect that investment. East Pasco is a small community, and there are very limited resources in the community."

Kocher said her agency is still planning to open its new inpatient center next summer but notes bringing in another hospice provider to compete won't make running either organization any easier.

"This won't do the community any good," she said. "They're splitting the resources between two agencies."

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