South Florida Hospital News
Sunday May 26, 2019
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April 2005 - Volume 1 - Issue 9

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The Next Best Thing

Hospice is about helping terminally ill patients live – comfortably and pain free, in their own homes, surrounded by the people they love – until they die. VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® makes that wish a reality for more than 9,000 people in the United States every day, including more than 2,500 each day here in South Florida.

"There is no place like home," says Freddie Negron, M.D., medical director for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® of Miami-Dade. "But there are times when home just isn’t adequate to care properly for terminally ill patients. There may be a need for a brief transition between hospital and home. A hospice patient at home may experience a spike in pain or other symptoms, and need temporary hospitalization to bring the symptoms back under control. Or perhaps the family needs a brief respite from the daily demands of caregiving."

"Unlike many hospice organizations, VITAS generally eschews the free-standing ‘hospice house,’" adds Joel Policzer, M.D., senior medical director of VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® of Broward County. "We prefer to partner with local hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities to establish a VITAS inpatient unit. These are rooms on a wing or floor that have been adapted to meet VITAS’ home-away-from-home standards for hospice care, and that are staffed by our end-of-life care experts."


Homey touches such as flowers, table lamps, recliners, soft patterns and sleeper sofas make a VITAS inpatient hospice room a home away from home for terminally ill patients and their families.

In VITAS inpatient units, paint, wallpaper and soft patterns brighten rooms. Sheer curtains soften the light. Recliners and sleeper sofas encourage visitors to sit, linger, stay. Common rooms invite children, pets and family gatherings, or ensure a place for quiet contemplation.

Yet while each VITAS unit looks and feels separate from the facility in which it is housed, there are numerous benefits from the collaboration that develops between the two clinical staffs. "Patients who are hospitalized find they can make an easier transition from hospital bed to home when there is a VITAS unit in the hospital," says Negron. "Nursing homes can keep their terminally ill residents ‘at home’ when there’s a VITAS unit just around the corner or up the stairs."

Patients and families with little knowledge of hospice get a glimpse of another kind of patient care. Intrigued by the sound of laughter, greeted by homey furnishings or the smell of fresh-baked treats, surprised by the sight of a tail-wagging canine visitor, families of hospital patients or nursing home residents frequently take a peek into the VITAS unit, ask questions, walk around—and leave knowing a lot more about VITAS Innovative Hospice Care®.

On February 28, VITAS opened its 24th VITAS inpatient unit, bringing the company’s total number of inpatient beds to 354 nationwide. This newest unit, located on the Third Floor Pavilion of Parkway Regional Medical Center in North Miami Beach, is the tenth VITAS inpatient unit in South Florida—four of which have opened in just the last 18 months.

"Fresh, cheerful, comfortable and welcoming, these new units are as close to home as VITAS can make them," says Brian Payne, senior general manager of VITAS’ Miami-Dade program. "Visitors are always welcome to call one of our units and arrange a visit. While nothing can replace the familiar surroundings of home, VITAS offers the next best thing for our terminally ill patients: a short stay at a VITAS inpatient unit."

In Miami-Dade County, VITAS has inpatient hospice units at Aventura Medical Center, Hialeah Hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center & Miami Heart Institute, North Shore Medical Center and Parkway Regional Medical Center. Broward County’s units are located at Broward Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Florida Medical Center, Fort Lauderdale Health & Rehabilitation Center, Memorial Hospital Pembroke and University Hospital.

Ian Viente, Vice President of Hospice Operations, VITAS Healthcare Corporation, can be reached at ian.viente@vitas.com.
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