Saving Our Hospice
Facing an unwinable battle against giant for-profit corporations, an institution in Laurens County since 1987 is turning to a giant of its own for assistance in maintaining its level of care.
Hospice of Laurens County announced Monday its affiliation with another not-for-profit organization, Hospice & Palliative Care, Charlotte Region. The Charlotte-based group has $60 million in annual revenues and a patient census of 800.
Peter Brunnick, president and CEO, said despite its much larger size, the goal of his organization aligns with Hospice of Laurens County in seeking to provide “the gold standard of care.”
“You are partnering with someone similar to you,” Brunnick said to assembled Hospice staff, board members and community officials at the Monday announcement. “Our goal is to be the best hospice in this area.”
What makes the Laurens County organization unique, Brunnick said, is Hospice House, founded in 2008. “There are just 13 hospice houses in South Carolina, and a lot are owned by hospitals.”
“We have the only hospice house in Laurens County, and that makes us different,” said Collie Lehn, Hospice of Laurens County board chairman. “We are centrally located in the Piedmont.”
“I have talked with other people about the dying small, not-for-profit (hospices). There are six of us in South Carolina,” said Linda Brown, interim executive director, Hospice of Laurens County. “People have told me it’s good to make this kind of decision while you still can. Too many times, the bank makes the decision. I can’t be more pleased (about the affiliation).
“This will help us reach new heights. This will help us provide the care our patients are entitled to,” Dr. Patsy Sadler, Hospice of Laurens County medical director, said of the affiliation.
Lehn said the large, for-profit hospices are squeezing non-profits out of the market. Thirty hospices are licensed for Laurens County, and 18 are aggressively marketing in this county, Lehn said.
“Most of the large for-profits have come in during the last 10 years,” Lehn said. “They make little investment. They have taken our market share. They have hired our employees when they can. They have hurt us economically, but that is competition.”
Brunnick said his organization affiliating with Hospice of Laurens County will mean more training opportunities for employees and a larger “group of friends” dedicating to seeing the local organization succeed. “Remember, if you need hospice care, you have to say, ‘Hospice of Laurens County.’ You can’t just say ‘hospice,’” he said. “We are going to continue to need the community’s help.”
Brunnick said when local donors give their money to Hospice of Laurens County, they can be assured the money will stay with the local organization. Hospice of Laurens County has thrift stores in Clinton and Laurens, and sponsors the Flight of the Dove bicycling event as its major fund-raiser. The organization also sponsors a butterfly release memory event, and a memorial for patients who have died during the year.
“We have devotion for our staff every money,” Hospice of Laurens County Chaplain Dan Compton said. “This morning, the devotion was, ‘This is the day the Lord has made.’”
Lehn said Monday was a landmark day for Hospice of Laurens County. “Over the past 30 years, we have touched the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens,” he said. “What makes this organization outstanding is, we see this as a ministry.”