REPOSTED from The Times Tribune
SCRANTON — In a place where youngsters once learned their earliest lessons, the aged and terminally ill will go to find peace in death.
Allied Services is readying an eight-bed inpatient hospice center on the edge of its Scranton campus, the former KinderCare daycare center.
The Allied Services Hospice Center will bridge a gap created when two inpatient hospice centers closed over the last three years, stretching the available beds for the few patients who need a higher level of care in their final days.
The new hospice center will be ready to accept its first patients on March 5. The center will feature sunlit rooms with windows facing a wooded area behind the building. Rooms will have places for family members to sleep and, in the middle of the center, there’s a common room with a kitchen and dining area for meals.
“This is a continuation of our reinvestment in the community and in particular for services that we know are desperately needed,” said Allied President William P. Conaboy during a recent walk-through.
The health system began offering home hospice care in 2015, and leaders quickly saw a need for more inpatient care, Conaboy said.
A health needs assessment found the greater region needs 15 to 16 inpatient beds given the population. Allied’s brings the total count from around 10 to 18.
Allied owned the building, and had leased it to KinderCare. The cost of converting the day care to a medical facility exceeded $2 million, Conaboy said.
In 2015, Commonwealth Health closed inpatient hospice units at three of its hospitals — Regional Hospital of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and Berwick Hospital Center — as the demand for those services fell to unsustainable levels.
The following year, VNA Hospice & Home Health closed its inpatient unit at Geisinger Community Medical Center leaving Hospice of the Sacred Heart in Dunmore as Lackawanna County’s only dedicated inpatient center with 10 beds.
Allied maintained one bed at GCMC and one at Commonwealth’s Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, but Diane Baldi, chief executive officer of Sacred Heart, said the region needed more.
“For the most part, it’s OK,” she said, but added, “We have a waiting list very frequently.”
She said she is happy with Allied’s new facility, if it means more patients are being cared for.
Only about 3 percent of dying patients actually use inpatient care, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Research shows the majority of the sick and elderly prefer to be at home when they die. However, some still need a higher level of round-the-clock care to manage symptoms.
“Inpatient units are designed for short-term,” Baldi said, who has worked in hospice for the last 31 years. “Patients still who can, and they have the care-giving system and the family is willing at home, they do want to die at home.”
Medicare rules for hospice care are particular on when they can move to an inpatient setting.
To be eligible for inpatient, they must be close enough to death and caregivers must give the order to not resuscitate.
Allied will employ 16 to 20 full-time and part-time staff, plus as many or more volunteers.
“We will rely on a volunteer presence for everything from greeting at the door to cooking meals,” said Laura Marion, a registered nurse and director of Allied’s hospice program. “It’s a very volunteer-based environment.”
People of any faith, or with no faith at all, see death as a sacred moment, and volunteers are driven by a desire to be part of that, Marion said.
Many patients enter hospice without any family to be with them, and volunteers, called vigil-sitters, will stay by their side so they aren’t alone.
“Not every patient has a family, and we want to adopt the mantra of, ‘No one dies alone,’” she said.
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Hospice center to host events
Allied Services Hospice Center plans a week of events on hospice awareness at the center, 511 Morgan Highway, Scranton. All events are open to the public. To reserve a spot, contact Michelle Spayder at 570-341-4664 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Ribbon cutting, blessing and open house, 12:30 p.m., Monday
• Discussion with Dr. Glen Digwood titled “Dispelling Hospice Myths,” 5:30 p.m., Tuesday
• Volunteer education event with volunteer coordinator Kathleen Haikes, 10:30 a.m., Thursday
• Discussion on care for terminally ill patients and their families with Patricia Moyle Wright, Ph.D., author of “Fast Facts for Hospice Nurses: A Concise Guide to End-of-Life Care,” noon, Friday, March 2.