Hospice services to expand in NE Miss.

TUPELO – (AP) North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo plans to open a dedicated inpatient hospice wing this month.

Hospital officials tell the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that the new 10-bed hospice which will serve terminally ill patients who need a higher level of care to remain comfortable.

“Our intention is to serve patients who are dying and are too sick to go home with hospice or to another facility,” said Tupelo geriatric specialist Dr. Ashley Harris, who will serve as the medical director.

Harris and NMMC Hospice Regional Manager Jill Conerly expect the wing to open after staff training and regulatory inspections are complete.

Initially, the hospice unit will focus on frail, terminally ill patients who need assistance to control severe symptoms like pain and shortness of breath. Later this spring, the hospice unit expects to care for patients who need to end supportive care, such as ventilators.

The patients will primarily come from other units within the hospital when attending physicians, patients and families decide it is time to seek hospice care, although organizers hope to offer respite care for patients on home hospice as space allows.

“There’s a huge need in our community,” Harris said. “We have to work as a team to figure out where the patient is best served.”

The NMMC hospice unit was created from a 13-bed wing, carving out room for a family sitting area and counseling room in addition to 10 patient rooms.

By mid-2013, the inpatient hospice capacity for north Mississippi – all centered in Lee County – will rise to 44 beds.

“We think it’s a good thing,” said Linda Gholston, administrator of Sanctuary Hospice House, which launched its efforts to expand in 2011 after it had to turn away 354 patients in the course of 12 months.

Before Sanctuary Hospice House opened its 16-bed home in Tupelo seven years ago, there were no dedicated inpatient hospice services available in north Mississippi. It will open eight additional beds later this spring.

Community Hospice opened a 10-bed Darlington Oaks in Verona six years ago.

“We often have a waiting list,” said Stephanie Pearce, Community Hospice clinical liaison and care coordinator.

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