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Hospice addressing rising demand

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Janet Fortner became its top executive 23 years ago, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region was serving 15 patients a day.

Now, it serves over 700 patients a day.

And the agency aims to keep growing as people live longer with chronic diseases, as Baby Boomers and their parents get older, and as more insurers and health-care providers recognize the benefits of hospice care, says Fortner, president and CEO.

To handle that growth, Hospice has begun building a 16-bed facility, the first free-standing hospice facility in Mecklenburg County.

The organization has raised more than $8.4 million in a $10 million capital campaign to pay for the 30,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to open in fall 2007 in The Park-Huntersville in Huntersville.

The new Levine & Dickson Hospice House will serve children and adults with a limited life expectancy who cannot be cared for in other settings, Fortner says.

Chaired by Steve Cummings, head of corporate and investment banking for Wachovia, the campaign received naming gifts from Leon and Sandra Levine through the Leon Levine Foundation, and from The Dickson Foundation.

And The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Mich., has awarded a challenge grant that will provide $500,000 when the campaign raises $9.5 million.

Founded in 1978, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region has cared for over 19,000 individuals and their loved ones in nine counties.

The organization operates with an annual budget of $22 million and a staff of 260 people, including nine physicians, plus 400 volunteers, including half-a-dozen or so teens who participated in a summer volunteer program.

Hospice generates revenue mainly in the form of reimbursement from third-party insurers, and raises roughly $1.3 million in charitable funds to help cover annual operating expenses, mainly through four big events, memberships and direct-mail appeals.

In addition to its main office in Charlotte, Hospice operates offices in Pineville and Davidson, both in Mecklenburg County, and Lincolnton in Lincoln County.

The organization serves children and adults who have a serious or chronic illness, providing hospice care for those with a limited life expectancy, typically six months, and palliative care for those with an unlimited life expectancy who still may be receiving treatment to cure their illness.

Hospice care addresses patients’ pain and other symptoms, and their physical, emotional and spiritual needs, including education and support for the family, and grief care for survivors.

Hospice provides health care for its patients through regular visits to the home by a team that includes nurses who are on call 24 hours a day, physicians, social workers, chaplains, in-home aides and volunteers.

Palliative care includes help with choosing treatment, and with managing pain and symptoms, plus planning and emotional support.

While it has just begun construction on its new residential facility, Fortner says, Hospice’ long-term plan calls for expanding that facility to as many as 48 beds over the next five to 10 years as demand for its services continues to grow.

“Our goal,” she says, “is to provide affordable, quality care tailored to the patient and family.”

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