Last updated: May 15. 2014 4:08PM - 433 Views
By - nsizemore@civitasmedia.com

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Hospice of the Bluegrass has made additional administrative adjustments and changes in the palliative care service to respond to changes in health care.

The Palliative Care Center of the Bluegrass, a non-profit subsidiary of Hospice of the Bluegrass, will close the outpatient clinic May 30. The clinic provides only 5 percent of the practice revenue and 12 percent of the expense of the program. Other models for outpatient care are being explored, agency officials said.

Susan Ware, Hospice of the Bluegrass vice president of development, said an additional 28 positions, agency-wide, have been eliminated. She said the cuts impact the entire agency, which serves 32 counties in central southeastern and northern Kentucky.

“We eliminated clinical staff positions, as well as administrative staff positions,” said Ware.

When asked why cuts are being made, Ware said Hospice nationally is experiencing this issue and has faced significant cuts in reimbursements.

“Payments to Hospice have been reduced by more than 11 percent since 2009,” said Ware. “We have new regulatory issues—things we have to abide by, that are also increasing our program costs. To remain strong through some of these additional financial burdens, we have to make some difficult choices.”

Since January, there have been 74 people eliminated.

Kim Livesay, Hospice of the Bluegrass director of annual giving and public relations, said in a press release, the Palliative Care Center of the Bluegrass will continue to provide palliative inpatient consultation services at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, University of Kentucky Samaritan, Saint Joseph Hospitals of Lexington, Baptist Health of Lexington and Baptist Regional Medical Center of Corbin, along with 14 nursing homes in the region.

“Technology has enabled a more mobile workforce and an opportunity for savings,” said Livesay. “The Fayette and Jessamine County administrative staff moved into one location in Lexington several months ago to streamline work and decrease the expense of maintaining two offices. Consolidation has worked well. So, the Jessamine office building is now for sale. Similar savings will be achieved by consolidating the Corbin and Harlan administrative staffs, who will now work from the Harlan office.”

Livesay said these changes will not affect patient care as hospice clinical staff visits patients in their home. She said the clinical staff has the needed mobile technology to ensure the flow of communication among the team and support services.

“There will be no interruption in services to patients and families,” said Livesay.

Hospice has also reduced the number of beds in the inpatient units located at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington and at the Greg & Noreen Wells Hospice Care Center in Hazard said Ware.

“We opened the Greg and Noreen Wells Hospice Care Center in 2011 and have recently seen a decrease in the number of patients we are seeing in the care center,” said Ware. “We have reduced the number of beds from 12 to six.”

Ware said three positions have been eliminated for the Mountain Heritage sites in Harlan, Bell, Clay, Knox, Laurel and Whitley counties.

“We are a nonprofit organization and the more funding coming we hope will be from more donations from our contributors,” said Ware. “We have a lot of people out in the communities we serve who have been very generous to us and have really helped us continue to provide the quality care that we’ve been providing to these communities in some cases for nearly 35 years and more.”

Gretchen Brown, president and chief executive officer for Hospice of the Bluegrass, said in a press release, “These are tough decisions, but the first priority is maintaining the ability to provide excellent care to terminally ill patients and their families. We also care about the employees who are losing their positions and will do what we can to make a difficult situation more bearable. Employees affected by the change have been offered a severance package.”

To make a donation to Hospice of the Bluegrass Mountain Heritage, mail your checks to 160 Village Center, Harlan, Ky., 40831 or you may go online to hospicebg.org and click on the donate now button to make that donation online. You may also visit their office in the Village Center Mall and drop off a donation. For more information, you may call 606-573-6111.

Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-909-4147 or on Twitter @Nola_hde

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