Updated March 5 at 9:05am

Hospice grows in care, competition in Ocean State

By Harold Ambler
PBN Staff Writer

Hospice, the palliative and holistic care of patients diagnosed by a doctor to be in their last six months of life, has come a long way in Rhode Island since its local start in 1976. More

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Hospice grows in care, competition in Ocean State

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Hospice, the palliative and holistic care of patients diagnosed by a doctor to be in their last six months of life, has come a long way in Rhode Island since its local start in 1976.

The hospice that got things rolling in the state was Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, and it is actually the second-oldest hospice organization in the United States. (The first was in nearby Branford, Conn.)

In those days, what was then known as Hospice Care of Rhode Island was an all-volunteer operation paying its bills through staff donations.

Today, hospice in the state is an industry replete with for-profit and nonprofit providers, all of them overwhelmingly funded by Medicare, and HHCRI has come to be the dominant player in the local market.

HHCRI CEO Diana Franchitto said in a recent interview that some people looking at the organization’s gleaming flagship structure, the Philip Hulitar Inpatient Center on North Main Street in Providence, would be surprised to know that the organization’s offices had been housed in a church basement and a carriage house (“a glorified garage,” as she put it) not all that long ago.

At the onset, hospice meant care given in a cancer patient’s home. Part of that was the effort to be compassionate, and part of it was the nonexistent budget that would become HHCRI was dealing with.

In 1983, though, Congress enacted legislation funding Medicare to reimburse hospice services. And in 1984 HHCRI became the first agency in New England recognized by Medicare as a hospice provider. Despite its growth following the Medicare recognition, HHCRI has remained nonprofit.

Over the years, hospice has come to be provided to terminal patients who have chosen it over interventions designed to arrest, or slow, the course of their illness or disease.

In the last decade and a half, hospice has seen explosive growth in the United States, and a number of for-profit providers have set up shop, including Odyssey HealthCare of Rhode Island (owned by Gentiva) and Beacon Hospice (owned by Amedisys), in Rhode Island.

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