Asbury Hospice awaits state approval for overruns

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The paperwork involved in receiving state approval for the cost overruns of building Asbury Hospice House in Hattiesburg is nearing an end after the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Division of Health Planning and Resource Development recommended approval of the revised Certificate of Need.

Approving the application submitted by Forrest County General Hospital for an amendment and cost overrun to the Certificate of Need allows FGH to increase the authorized capital expenditure from $6,449,306 to $6,900,720.58.

After six years of planning and construction – interrupted by a tornado and rebidding the initial plans – Forrest General Hospital began accepting patients for Asbury Hospice House on Nov. 14, 2016. The facility has 12 rooms, but expansion could provide eight more rooms – four on each end of the hospice.

FGH Chief Operating Officer Doug Cook said Asbury House Hospice is a logical step for Forrest General Hospital, which offers home hospice in 19 counties.

“The next step in a hospice program is to have an in-patient hospice program,” he said. “In an in-patient hospice program, you think about a couple of different purposes. One is for symptom management, and then for pain management and for truly end-of-life care where a patient can’t be treated at home and it’s for respite, where the family needs a break from it.

“Typically, most hospices have contracts with hospital providers or nursing homes to provide those services within those walls. However, that environment is not conducive to taking care of the patient. So the idea here would be to create a home-like environment for taking care of the patient at this point in their lives. And it includes taking care of the family too.”

Cook said planning for the hospice began in 2010.

“The initial kickoff with the state was in 2012,” he said. “One of the things that happened was the tornado came right over the site in 2013. So a lot of the work we had done initially for the site was destroyed, so we had to go in there and basically clearcut the site and start over with a lot of things.”

After site work was completed, the FGH Board of Trustees rejected the first construction bids as too high and discussions began with contractors and subcontractors to reduce costs. Talks were also held with the Mississippi Department of Health, Division of Health Facilities, Fire Safety and Construction regarding code interpretations.

The revised plans were resubmitted to the Mississippi Department of Health, Division of Health Facilities, Fire Safety and Construction for review and an approval letter for the proposed project was received on May 22, 2015. Forrest General’s Board of Trustees recommended awarding the bid contract to Mac’s Construction Company, Inc. on May 19, 2015, and the project was completed on Nov. 14, 2016. 

The original project consisted of 18,240 square feet of heated and cooled area with 2,364 square feet of porches and drop-offs at an estimated cost of $6,449,306. The facility, as constructed, is 17,340 square feet of heated and cooled area with 2,567 square feet of porches and drop-offs and was completed for a total cost of $6,900,720.58.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reviews projects for construction, renovation, expansion, or capital expenditure in excess of $5 million (for non-clinical health services) under state law. The State Health Officer reviews all projects for cost overruns in accordance with duly adopted rules, procedures, plans, criteria, and standards of the Mississippi State Department of Health. 

Cook said the hospital is also connecting more directly with the patients and families with the addition of two palliative care physicians. Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

“That has been an investment that we have made in the community because they are physicians that understand what is going on with the patient and help the family understand and help them to make decisions about what is going to happen to the patient,” he said. “It connects to the hospice program and a lot of the other programs we have too.”

The six-month extension of the Certificate of Need expires on Dec. 24.