September 12th, 2006

Great River Medical Center will open a hospice house in summer 2007. Final designs should be approved next week. Contractors will bid on the project in September, and construction is set to begin in early November.

“Our hospice program has grown to have a regional presence in southeast Iowa,” President and CEO Mark Richardson said. “As our volume increases, we’re seeing a natural evolution to help patients and their families who need this service.”

A hospice house is a care center that feels and functions like a home. Medical technology and services are available, but hidden to preserve the homelike feel of the facility. Patients who are admitted to Great River Hospice have terminal illnesses and six months or less to live as determined by their physicians. Diagnoses include cancer, AIDS, end-stage heart, lung or renal disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other life-limiting diseases.

“Most people don’t want to die in a high-tech hospital atmosphere,” said Home Health Care and Hospice Director Chris Oleson. “They want to be at home, but it’s not always possible for families to provide care at such an intense time. If they can’t be at home, this is the next best thing.”

The hospice house will be located on the west side of the lake on the hospital’s campus in West Burlington, Iowa.

“Most hospice houses are built in residential areas and have a very traditional look,” Richardson said. “Our challenge on this modern campus is to build a traditional home. We’ve developed a design that fits nicely and has a homelike atmosphere.”

The 8,500 square-foot house will have a brick and stone exterior. Each of the six large patient and family suites will have a fireplace, natural woodwork, skylight, lamps, entertainment center, sofa-sleeper, laptop hookup and private deck. The rooms will have wiring for videoconferencing in the future.

Common areas for families will include a kitchen, dining room, living room with a large stone fireplace, indoor and outdoor play areas for young children, game room for adolescents, showers, laundry room, quiet room/chapel, bereavement room, screened porches and outdoor grill area.

“This will be a very comfortable atmosphere for patients and families,” Oleson said. “This is their home at this time in their lives. We’ll have enough space to accommodate large families.”

Home Health Care and Hospice offices will be located on the lower level, doubling the department’s existing space in the hospital.

The hospice house will provide three levels of care:
• Inpatient acute care—For pain and symptom management that can’t be provided in another setting. This care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.
• Respite care—Patients may stay for up to five days at a time so at-home caregivers can have a break. This care also is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.
• Residential care—For patients who want to spend the remainder of their lives in the hospice house. This care is not covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans, but financial assistance will be available for those who qualify.

A registered nurse and certified nursing assistant will be on duty 24 hours a day. Hospice volunteers will be in the house for 12 hours.

Breakfast for patients will be cooked on demand by hospice staff, and lunch and supper will be provided by the hospital’s Nutrition Services Department. There will be a spa-type room for whirlpool baths, hair care and massages.

“When the hospice house opens, there won’t be another hospital in Iowa with the same combination of services we provide,” Richardson said.