In rural Humboldt County, Calif., where resources are limited, sharing is a way of life. Take the small town of Eureka: For more than 40 years, Providence St. Joseph Hospital and Hospice of Humboldt have partnered in the care of this tight-knit community. They’ve shared many of the same patients, at different points in their lives. Their values are closely aligned. The hospital’s inpatient palliative care team even shares a medical director, John Nelson, M.D., with the independent, nonprofit Hospice of Humboldt.
For many years, the two organizations also held common concerns about a gap in care for seriously ill people whose needs fall in the space between hospital services and hospice care. So when Hospice of Humboldt stepped up to fill that gap, Providence gladly stepped forward with support.
Providence grant helps new program launch
With help from a $100,000 grant from the Providence Community Health Investment fund, Hospice of Humboldt launched a new home-based palliative care program and started seeing its first patients in April. While hospice programs traditionally provide comfort care at the end of life, palliative care can be delivered alongside curative treatment and focuses on relief from the symptoms and stress of illness.
“That’s our shared mission between both organizations. We’re so grateful that Hospice of Humboldt is offering this program, and that we’re able to partner in their efforts.”
- Martha Shanahan, director of Providence Community Health Investment for Humboldt County
“People diagnosed with advanced cancers, heart failure, and other serious chronic diseases receive wonderful care in the hospital,” says Amy Bruce, who directs the program for Hospice. “But once they’re back home, they still have a lot of needs. We’re that extra layer of support.”
In addition to funding, Providence St. Joseph’s inpatient palliative care and CARE Network teams provide close coordination with Hospice’s new home-based palliative care team to ensure smooth transitions from hospital to home. “We can be in the patient’s home within days of discharge,” says Bruce, “assessing their needs, collaborating with their treatment team, keeping an eye on them, and providing the pain relief and support they need at home to avoid repeat hospitalizations. We continue that support either through the resolution of their illness or until they can benefit from end-of-life hospice care.”
People caring for people
“You might think that just sounds like good health care,” adds Bruce, “And you’d be right.” But most insurers, including Medicare, don’t yet cover in-home palliative care. Here in Humboldt County, the community pulled together to make it happen. Contributions from Providence and many others helped staff the team with a social worker, a nurse and a medical provider. “The resources are people,” says Bruce. “So those dollars are providing support for people to care for people. It’s that simple.”
"The resources are people. So those [grant] dollars are providing support for people to care for people. It’s that simple.”
- Amy Bruce, program director, palliative care, Hospice of Humboldt
For people dealing with serious illnesses, that support means everything. “When you’re leaving the hospital, feeling crummy and dealing with a lot, it’s such a comfort to be able to go home with supports in place so you can live the best quality of life possible,” says Martha Shanahan, director of Providence Community Health Investment for Humboldt County. “That’s our shared mission between both organizations. We’re so grateful that Hospice of Humboldt is offering this program, and that we’re able to partner in their efforts.”
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