It’s taken a long time, and it will take just a bit longer, but the Community Home Health and Hospice at 3102 N.E. 134th St. in Salmon Creek is about to open its doors.
To celebrate and introduce the public to its services, the Longview-based nonprofit is hosting an open house and self-guided tour of the 10-bed facility Friday. The event follows a ribbon-cutting held Saturday that attracted some 120 local supporters.
But even with the festivities, the home will not be able to open until the state Department of Health approves certification, said Greg Pang, CEO of Community Home Health and Hospice. He said his organization is working to get the state’s final approval as soon as possible.
The Salmon Creek hospice will offer a variety of services for patients who are close to death and their families. It offers private rooms on a scenic site near three acres of wetlands, a skilled staff and a variety of services, Pang said. Hospice patients typically come when they are close to death: Pang expects the average length of stay will be only about four days.
The new facility cost about $8.7 million, including cost of the six-acre site near Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, Pang said. In addition to the 10-bed hospice, which accounted for $2.4 million of those costs, the facility houses medical equipment for in-home services and some administrative staff, and has unfinished space for a 10-bed expansion, as needed.
A second phase, set for construction in 2017 or 2018 depending on fundraising, would include a grief support center, a community conference center and staff space. The additional hospice beds could be added at that time, Pang said.
The center was not without controversy. PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, which owns the Ray Hickey House for hospice patients in Vancouver, initially opposed construction, telling the state department of health that the additional beds were not needed. It dropped the appeal in August 2012 , saying it still questioned the need for a second inpatient hospice but wanted to maintain cordial relations with Community Home Health.
Pang said there is no ill will between his hospice program and PeaceHealth. “We have had multiple discussions with PeaceHealth. We re friends and will always be friends. My goal is to make sure that patients don’t have to wait when in need.” He said a shortage of hospice beds in the Portland area could mean that some patients from Oregon will come to the Salmon Creek hospice.
Sonjia Hauser, nurse manager at the Ray Hickey House, said her average census for last 6 months has been 8 residents in the 20-bed hospice. Their average length of stay for residential respite and general inpatient residents was seven days, she said.
The question of whether the new home is needed is no longer an issue since both homes now exist, she said. “We will continue to be here and offer these services, and the important part is that everybody in our community will get end of life care,” she said.
Community Home Health & Hospice, based in Longview, was founded in 1977 in Cowlitz County, where it operates a 12-bed hospice center, and has provided health care services in Clark County since 1988. It also provides services in Wahkiakum County and Columbia County, Oregon.