Lakeside Hospice, a 22-year-old nonprofit, faith-based care center, plans to open the new inpatient care facility on 10th Street, on the third floor of the Woodstock Professional Building, across from Regional Medical Center. The facility will meet a growing need of care, which Lakeside administrators and some health experts say is part of a trend in the hospice industry across the country.
Sharon Smith, executive director of Lakeside Hospice, said Lakeside has already applied for a certificate of need from the State Health Planning and Development Agency to open the facility, valued at approximately $1.5 million. Under state law, a hospital, hospice center or other medical facility must obtain a certificate of need from the agency if it intends to expand or build a new facility that surpasses certain cost thresholds or if it plans to offer a new medical service.
The agency is scheduled to review Lakeside's certificate of need request in February. If approved, the new facility will open six months later, Smith said. Once open, the facility will employ 10 and possibly expand to 20 in the near future, she said.
Smith said Lakeside has patients in Calhoun County, but this is the first facility it will have in the area. Lakeside contracts with hospitals and nursing homes to provide hospice care.
"We're very excited," Smith said. "Because we're faith-based and have ministry, we think we'll be able to meet the needs of family and patients there."
Smith said Lakeside chose Anniston due to its central location in the region and because it's so close to RMC and to Stringfellow Memorial Hospital.
"Being close to a hospital, that's a win," she said. "It's difficult for patients, when in their last days and weeks, to be in a hospital."
Smith said hospitals do well at focusing on curing patients, but not so well at providing comfort to patients during their last few weeks or days of life.
Smith said the need for hospice care has grown in recent years due to the aging population.
"Without a doubt, the aging population is growing," Smith said. "And now with the baby boomer generation aging, that increase in population will be much greater."
Dr. Rodney Tucker, director of the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, agreed that the hospice industry is expanding.
"It's a big, huge growth right now," Tucker said. "Clearly, the role of hospices is growing exponentially and will continue to grow."
While people are living longer, the growth in hospice care is also due to increased acceptance of the industry in the United States, Tucker said.
"America in general does not have a culture that discusses the end of life very openly," Tucker said. "That's changing as the population gets older, people are getting more receptive to talking about that."
Tucker added that the hospice industry itself is changing, creating more facilities like Lakeside's now than in the past.
"Hospice has traditionally been a home-delivery program," Tucker said. "Now there's increased incidents where they have specialized facilities so they can take care of patients more aggressively … so they can avoid having patients in acute-care hospitals."
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.