Hospice Family Care Board President Tony Palumbo (left) and Huntsville Hospital Health System CEO David Spillers shake hands at the announcement of the merger of their two non-profits. The two predict the establishment of a new inpatient hospice facility within the next 18 months to two years. (Record photo/Charles Molineaux)

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Hospice/Hospital merger promises new facility for terminally ill

Published 5:26pm Saturday, September 7, 2013

By Charles Molineaux

HUNTSVILLE – Huntsville Hospital Health System and Hospice Family Care have embarked on a merger which leaders promise will provide better care for terminally ill patients and, ultimately, a new full scale inpatient hospice facility for the region, the two non-profits jointly announced Thursday.

“We can blend the best of both worlds,” said Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers, “their expertise in dealing with end-of-life issues, our expertise on the facilities and inpatient piece.”

Established in 1979, Hospice Family Care promises a “holistic approach” to end-of-life care, the majority of that care provided in patients’ homes. But Board President Tony Palumbo said its staff “daily” encounters cases where a dying patient requires a higher level of care than an in-home nurse, or overworked relatives, can provide.

“There are still hours,” he explained, “where you’re by yourself with that patient, and the last thing you want to be is the only person left with a loved one during those last few minutes because people go ‘what should I do?’”

“And they don’t want to go into the hospital to die,” continued Peggy Galloway, previous leader of Hospice Family Care, under whose tenure talks with Huntsville Hospital began. “An inpatient facility offers a home environment for the family to be with the patient the last week or two of their life and provide all the medical services.”

Galloway envisioned a facility similar to the Shepherd’s Cove hospice in Albertville, one of only three such facilities in Alabama.

The merger, effective Sept.1, combines the organizations’ finances, but leaves the management of Hospice Family Care to its own board.

The size and placement of the inpatient hospice center remain to be determined, Palumbo said, but “we’d like to get it done in 18 months to two years and have it up and running.”

The first step will be applying for a “Certificate of Need” from the state, a process likely to take about six months.

The new partners said they are considering possible locations both on and off of Huntsville Hospital’s main Huntsville campus. “It’s nice that we’ve got some options,” said Spillers.

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