A 12-bed inpatient hospice unit will accept its first patients in the coming weeks at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center while renovations continue on meeting and common areas.
Hospice of Central Ohio, which leases the space and operates the unit, has kicked off a fundraising campaign of up to $2.5 million. The nonprofit has raised about $400,000 toward a $1 million capital goal, while the rest of what’s raised will support charity care, because it accepts terminally ill patients regardless of ability to pay.
“This type of a venture, whereby we have hospice embedded in an academic medical center, is fairly novel,” said Susan Moffatt-Bruce, executive director of University Hospital.
“This is an opportunity to care for patients in a very important chapter of their life, but these patients are very complex,” she said. “We want to make sure everything goes smoothly for that first patient and every patient thereafter.”
The opening had been targeted for fall, but Hospice of Central Ohio wanted to ensure highest quality of care, CEO Kerry Hamilton said. Then the month-long partial federal government shutdown delayed pharmacy licensure and some other services.
“Hopefully now that things are back on track, we’ll be able to be into the space as soon as possible,” said Hamilton, who’s also chief strategy officer for the parent Ohio’s Hospice with branches covering 37 counties.
The $1.2 million project converted rooms in University Hospital’s Rhodes Hall formerly used for overnight stays after surgery. As more procedures shift to outpatient, that opened up a rare extra space in a hospital that’s usually running at capacity, Moffatt-Bruce said.
“That’s not a small number of beds,” she said. “Having that area committed to hospice is an important decision.”
Ohio State has referred patients to home- or faclity-based independent hospice, but hasn’t had any inpatient space since 2016. Some patients with terminal cancer or complex neurological or heart conditions simply aren’t stabilized enough to travel, she said.
“There comes a point where curative care has reached its end,” Hamilton said. “The appropriate action is to engage supportive care, focused on palliating symptoms.”
The unit could serve up to 700 patients in its first year, and raise awareness that could drive more referrals to at-home hospice, he said. That’s a 50 percent increase on the yearly average of 1,400 across nine Central Ohio counties. Overall the organization serves 15,500 patients a year.
The medical center is in early stages of designing an 840-bed tower that will replace both Rhodes and Doan halls, resulting in more back-fill projects like this. While out of date for hospital rooms by then, the sound buildings could be used for offices, research and education such as simulation labs, Moffat-Bruce said.
With that huge project and a network of outpatient campuses on its plate, the health system has not contemplated a freestanding hospice.
“If this relationship and this venture are successful, it certainly is something we should look at as a longer-term solution,” she said.