Iowa’s Largest Hospice a Victim of Nationwide Trend

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Back when the Bright Kavanagh House was built, neighbors on Des Moines' east side said the land was better suited for a different for-profit business.

Now, almost a decade later, the building doesn't have a single patient. But officials say this is a trend in hospice care and it won't last forever.

Hospice officials the trend should reverse itself in the next 10 to 15 years when the baby boomers are aging.

But for now, the trend is costing not just local care services but services nationwide.

“There is a change in health care environment and hospice care is no different,” said Tray Wade, interim CEO of HCI Care Services.

Wade says the care service he is helping to oversee has to adjust.

“Six years ago, we really started to see a shift in the way that Medicare, which is really responsible for a large part of our funding, views inpatient facilities,” Wade said.

The Bright Kavanagh House is the state's largest inpatient hospice facility, and it can hold up to 24 patients. But it hasn't been that full in years.

Three weeks ago, only two patients were living there. That's when officials chose to consolidate with another facility.

Wade said the shrinking numbers are part of a growing trend.

“Right now, we're serving more people in their homes a lot more frequently,” he said.

It’s also a nationwide trend.

In 2013, patients were twice as more likely to choose in home hospice care over inpatient or hospitalized hospice care, a slight increase from 2012.

In Des Moines, those still choosing inpatient care will now be housed at the Kavanagh House on 56th Street. The facility has 15 beds, where all but two of them are full.

Despite losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue over the last couple of years, HCI Care Services stresses the consolidation was not due to financial reasons but in order to provide better service.

“It really improves care. It makes us stronger as far as the organization. It makes us better equipment to meet our patient and family needs,” Wade said.

He said the facility is not closing down.

For now, it will serve as an administrative and group meeting space.