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Hospice going back into St. Luke’s

By Staff | Jul 17, 2011

Mary Ellen Rigby

It’s been more than four years since United Hospital District ended its hospice services at St. Luke’s.

That will be changing very soon.

Dennis Reiman, interim administrator at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, says attorneys for the nursing home and UHD are working out final details of an agreement.

“We continue to look at our end of life care as a valuable resource, but we know there are some families that may like to use another hospice program,” Reiman says.

St. Luke’s has been the only long-term care facility in a 30-mile radius of Blue Earth not served by United Hands Hospice.

Mary Ellen Rigby, director of home care and hospice in Faribault County, says UHD’s hospice program is among the “gems” of health care delivery offered in Blue Earth.

“St. Luke’s provides awesome care. Right now they have a need to enhance the care for Medicare recipients. We’re here and happy to help them,” says Rigby.

There is a need for them right now. We’re here and happy we can provide these services

In 2007, UHD’s contract with St. Luke’s for hospice care services was not renewed.

At that time, nursing home officials said United Hands Hospice was similar to its own, thus making it redundant and a duplication of services.

St. Luke’s administration also pointed out that during a five-year period only 27 of the home’s 485 residents sought assistance from United Hands.

And, the day the program was dropped only one person of the facility’s 137 residents was using UHD’s services.

“Things were done differently then. Our hands were tied before. Administration made some decisions without board input,” says Sonja Willmert, president of St. Luke’s 17-member board of directors.

Willmert says current administration at St. Luke’s has fresh ideas and a new way of thinking.

“Partnering and working with another medical provider is positive for the homes residents,” Reiman says.

Reinstating United Hands is the recommendation of St. Luke’s five-member executive board.

Willmert, who is chairperson of the group, says it was unanimous to expand hospice care offered at the nursing home.

“We’re trying to look ahead and do what’s best for the residents at St. Luke’s and the community,” she says. “We just want to do what’s right.”

Reiman isn’t sure how long it will take to iron out “language issues” in the agreement.

He says the contract does not involve monetary terms, so there are no out-of-pocket costs for anybody.

During a UHD board meeting earlier this month, administrator Jeff Lang told members hospice training is being given to St. Luke’s staff.

Hospice services can be paid through Medicare, medical assistance and private insurance plans.

Patients unable to afford hospice aren’t turned away.

In 2010, UHD provided “uncompensated care” totaling about $40,000.

“If our projections go as expected, we definitely exceed that amount this year,” Rigby says.