Friday | April 17, 2015
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Hospice opening inpatient facility

By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

A new health care facility on the Big Island might be hard to recognize, and that’s the point.

Hospice of Hilo’s first inpatient facility, to open later this month, was designed to look and feel more like a home than a medical center.

Brenda Ho, chief executive officer, said the nonprofit organization focused on details big and small to provide the medical care its patients need in the final stage of their lives while at the same time not taking away the comfort of home.

For instance, when people walk in they see dining and living rooms rather than a staff person sitting at a desk.

There’s that to, down the hallway, but Ho said they try to keep as much behind the scenes as possible.

“It has all the bells and whistles of an acute care facility but it definitely is meant to be a home,” she said.

The Pohai Malama a Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Care Center at 590 Kapiolani St. in Hilo will host its grand opening June 22.

Its purpose is to provide hospice, which focuses on easing pain of terminally-ill patients, for those who don’t have a family member or loved one nearby who can help look after them.

As Ho explained, the purpose of the organization has been to help patients and their family members deal with the final stages of life, but not provide 24/7 care.

An Umamoto, Hospice of Hilo spokeswoman, said their services include showing family members how to provide medications and offering spiritual support.

“We’re a one-stop shop for those families,” she said.

But if a patient lives on their own, an inpatient facility may be the best option, which is where the new care center comes in.

The facility, which Ho said is the only inpatient hospice center in Hawaii outside of Oahu, can host 18 patients but will start off with 12.

Jim Nakagawa, Hospice of Hilo board president, said the need is “definitely there,” noting that even able family members have to work and can’t devote all of their time to an ailing loved one.

“It’s to take care of that niche of people,” he said.

“We have this home to be able to provide those services in a family type of setting.”

Ho said the organization is limited to how many people it can serve outside of their homes by Medicare, one of its primary funding sources.

It has raised $9.4 million, enough to build the facility, but is still seeking about another $600,000 to cover maintenance and other expenses.

The hospice’s main operating costs are covered by private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, Ho said.

Funding includes nearly $3.9 million in state and federal funds, $3.6 million from foundations and corporations, $1 million from Hospice of Hilo, and $900,704 in other private contributions.

Each patient room, referred to as patient suites, has a lanai, a pull-out bed for friends and family, and private bathroom.

Outside their windows, patients have views of a garden with meandering paths.

The rooms are fully capable of providing oxygen and other medical needs, but they are designed to keep much of that equipment out of sight in cabinets in order to maintain the sense of being at home.

A children’s room and meditation room are also available, and each doorway was designed to be big enough to push a bed through.

That way, even bed-ridden patients can enjoy the living room and garden.

Ho said studies have shown hospice patients live longer and more comfortably in their final months.

But those services can be lacking for patients considered terminally ill, she said, which is where hospice comes in.

“Our (health care) system is not design to ease individuals as they enter their final journey,” she said.

“There’s a lot that can be done in the final phase.”

The organization serves the east side of the island, but Nakagawa said it will take patients from other areas if it can.

To donate, or for more information, visit www.hospiceofhilo.org or call 969-1733.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.