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Caroline Home for Hospice

From the 4/18/12 edition of the Caroline Times Record Newspaper

The Caroline Hospice Foundation is no longer accepting patients in the three beds of its Home for Hospice in Denton, a move the foundation said will free up funds to provide more care in patients' own homes.

The foundation will continue to provide in-home end-of-life care for county residents, including supplies, primary caregiver respite, bereavement assistance and clergy services.

The Denton facility on Fifth Avenue will still be open, as it houses the foundation's office and has a chapel available for use.

"We don't want people thinking there's no longer a hospice in Caroline County," said Service Manager Heidi Plutschak.

The hope is to rebuild the foundation's finances to eventually reopen the beds to patients, but for now, the money is simply not there.

"It wasn't an easy decision, but it was so black-and-white we couldn't avoid it," said Board of Directors President Betty Ballas.

Of the $40,000 needed to run the entire hospice foundation on a monthly basis, $30,000 of that went to running the three-bed care facility in Denton, mostly because of salaries for caregivers, said Plutschak.

However, since the facility was opened in 2005, only about 25 percent of hospice patients were cared for in the facility, and last year, that number dropped to only 16 percent. The rest stayed in their own homes.

"We have always taken care of more patients out in the community," Plutschak said.

The hospice foundation, which was founded in 1985, runs solely on grants, fundraisers and donations, and receives no state or county assistance. A contract with Shore Homecare Hospice provides skilled caregivers for patients staying in their own homes, which is billed directly to the patient's insurance or Medicare.

Two caregivers were provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the Denton facility, whether there was one patient or three. Those salaries were paid by the hospice foundation. Caroline County's was the only hospice facility that did not charge for that care.

Ballas said it cost more than originally projected to run the three-bed facility, and when the economy soured after it was opened in 2005, donations began dropping off.

The current Board of Directors struggled with the decision to close the facility for the past several years, Ballas said. Charging for the facility care was considered, but board members felt it went against the foundation's philosophy.

"We're here to help the rich and the poor," Ballas said.

Ballas said it also would have required hiring an additional employee to handle billing.

The board held three special meetings in March, Ballas said, and finally made the difficult decision. Ballas said one of the 11 board members was opposed to closing the facility, but could offer no solution to the financial shortfall.

At the time, there was only one patient in the facility, who was allowed to stay.

"No one was moved out due to the decision," Ballas said.

However, the decision did force the foundation to lay off 14 employees, three full-time and 10 part-time caregivers, and one foundation employee.

Ballas said the foundation recognizes the value of the facility. While most patients choose to stay in their own homes, the ones who came to the facility did so because they either did not have family to provide the necessary care or their health deteriorated to the point it was too much for family to handle.

"It's a great loss," Plutschak said. 'We realize the need for it, but we just can't financially sustain it."

Ballas said the board will now focus on developing a plan to make the facility self-sustainable, so it can be reopened.

Plutschak said volunteers are still needed for in-home care, to sit with patients. Fundraisers are continuing to raise money for in-home care and supplies, including pit beef sales, a ball in July, a 5K run and walk in September, a beer festival in October and the Festival of Trees in December.

Caroline Hospice Foundation, Inc.
& Caroline Home For Hospice

613 South Fifth Avenue
P. O. Box 362
Denton, Maryland 21629

410-479-3500 Office
410-479-5535 Residents' Wing
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