Hospice unit to open soon at CAMC Memorial

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A new place is coming for people to die with peace and dignity.

A hospice room is ready for its next patient at the HospiceCare facility at Thomas Memorial Hospital.

HospiceCare and CAMC are announcing a new partnership to bring 12 beds for hospice patients to CAMC Memorial.

It should mean lower costs and higher comfort for everyone.

"The need will definitely be there as our population continues to age," said HospiceCare Executive Director Larry Robertson.

The 12 beds at CAMC Memorial will look similar to 12 beds already in place at Thomas Memorial in South Charleston which have a homey lamp, a private bathroom and a small fridge. There’s also a pullout couch.

Down the hall there are plenty of other comforts with lounges, a kitchen and even a place for kids to play.

The average stay for hospital hospice patients is five days, which is a long time for their families.

"That's why people like to spend their last days with hospice if they can because of all the care that's attended to those families by our staff," Robertson said.

The average patient who dies at home is with HospiceCare about 65 days, but those in the hospital are usually much sicker.

Roberston said a room in ICU rooms can run $3,000 a day while a hospice room can be just $500.

He adds since until now, an ambulance ride is required and other changes to the family’s routine, having an inpatient unit at the hospital makes it that much easier in a difficult time.

But the most exciting part for him will be the new visibility to doctors and hospital staff.

"We're still dealing with physicians who are all about cure,” said Robertson. “That's OK. They go to medical school to try to learn how to cure people. That don't take a lot of classes on death and dying."

With a population getting older, up to one in four people in West Virginia are now over 65, it's a lesson we all will need to learn.

"It's a sad time when your loved one passes, so anything we can do to help bring a little peace and quiet at the end of life is important to us."

Robertson said it used to be one in five over 65.

The cost of the building project is an estimated $950,000.

HospiceCare hopes to be able to begin construction by Aug. 1 once they get the certificate of need from the West Virginia Health Care Authority and open as early as November.

It will be located on the fourth floor of the north wing at CAMC Memorial, an area which is currently a general patient unit. There’s also the ability to add another 12 beds if the need arises. This will be the third hospice location for HospiceCare. The announcement changes nothing at the other two locations, including at Thomas Memorial Hospital.