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Home hospice care and lack of coverage for in-patient care are key factors in closing facility.

BILL GALLAGHER - The soon-to-close Hopewell Hospice is located a quarter of a mile from Hillsdale.The spacious home in the wooded hills of Southwest Portland where hundreds of dying patients have spent their final days for the last 28 years is now itself nearing the end of its existence as Legacy Hopewell Hospice House.

Legacy Health Systems has announced it will close the facility at 6171 S.W. Capitol Highway on Sept. 30. Patients living with life-threatening illnesses have been receiving end-of-life care at Hopewell since 1987.

At one time in the 1990s, every one of 15 rooms available for patients was occupied and there was a waiting list. According to Brian Terrett, public relations director with Legacy, there are currently just two or three patients at Hopewell on any given day. There are rooms for 11 patients.

"It's unfortunate that we're going to have to close the facility," Terrett said. "It was a pretty tough decision but given the trends we're seeing, it's inevitable. The big factor is so few patients.

BILL GALLAGHER - There are 11 beds at Hopewell for terminal patients but on most days only three, at most, are occupied."People are just choosing to go a different route," he said. "Home hospice has become so effective people are choosing to spend their final days at home with their families, surrounded by loved ones."

Some are making that choice, others are having the choice to die at home made for them.

"The criteria for being admitted has changed," Terrett said. "Fewer and fewer patients are qualifying for admission to an in-patient hospice."

He tells the SW Community Connection that the decision was made by the federal government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over time to, "make adjustments in how they are going to pay for health care.

"What happens is, that has a ripple effect down the line. So often times, within a number of years, insurers will follow those same criteria," Terrett said.

Patients seeking in-patient hospice care whose insurance will cover the cost will be admitted to one of Legacy's six hospitals.

Hopewell Hospice House was established in 1987 to care for terminal cancer and AIDS patients. It closed its doors less than four years later for lack of funding. In 1991 it was taken over by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and, for the next two decades, often was full to capacity. But funding was always a challenge.

In July 1992, an emergency fund-raising drive netted $40,000 to keep the doors open. But by December of that year, donors were informed of a $150,000 deficit. The Collins Foundation of Oregon stepped forward with multiple donations of $100,000.

Sometime around the turn of the century — Terrett said he isn't sure exactly when — Legacy Health Systems took over through its Visiting Nurses Association.

Hopewell Hospice House originally was just called Hospice House and was established in a home donated by the Henningsen Cold Storage Co. In a letter to donors, K. Rena Whittaker of the Good Samaritan Foundation wrote that there are no current plans for the facility. "Over the next year, we will continue to carefully evaluate how Hopewell House can best be used to serve our community," she wrote.


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