July 24, 2012
REGULATION CHANGES ALLOW NEW HOSPICES
By Martin B. Cassidy, Stamford Advocate
A legislative committee's approval of new regulations easing approvals to run in-patient hospices will hopefully spur health care outfits to create needed home-like facilities to treat the terminally ill, state Rep. Dan Fox, D-Stamford said.
Fox, a member of the Legislature's Regulations Review Committee said its unanimous approval of the new rules Tuesday cuts away some of the financially onerous requirements that drove Stamford's 12-bed Richard L. Rosenthal hospice to close last November.
With the eased regulations, home health care providers and private foundations could partner to operate smaller 5- to 12-bed facilities that could function without losing money, he said.
"The regulations passed today will allow a smaller community-based facility to open its doors and operate in the city of Stamford again," Fox said. "Until today, the regulations in place had been geared towards a totally different kind of care and limited the type of care available to families."
By establishing separate regulations to license new in-patient hospice facilities, the proposed regulations helped lessen the long-standing opposition by Connecticut Hospice of Branford, the nation's first hospice.
Connecticut Hospice officials had argued earlier suggested changes did not do enough to distinguish their hospital-like level of care and smaller operations.
The approval clears the way for plans by the Regional Home and Hospice Care of Western Connecticut's to break ground in spring 2013 on a 12-suite regional hospice on Milestone Road in Danbury, said Cynthia Roy Squitieri, chief executive officer and president of the agency.
Squitieri said the decades-old regulations had included unnecessary requirements and had put Connecticut far behind the rest of the nation in providing access to quality end-of-life care for families.
"It's a very exciting day on a lot of levels in Connecticut because we finally have contemporized regulations for hospice residence in the state with even the governor signing the changes," Squitieri said. "This brings Connecticut into the forefront of thinking about end of life care when we have been really behind on it."
Under the previous regulations, the only in-patient hospice facilities in the state were Connecticut Hospice of Branford and in Wallingford.
Last fall, Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of Southwestern Connecticut, which operated the Rosenthal hospice, shut down the 12-bed facility that opened in 2000, citing financial hardships, including the decades-old regulations imposing requirements for room size, employment of a full-time medical director and a 24-hour pharmacy on premises that swelled costs.
The closure of the Rosenthal, which cared for more than 1,000 area residents during its 11 years in operation, helped galvanize relatives of former patients and city residents to call for reform of the regulations.
Members of the Connecticut Association of Home Care and Hospice, which represents 26 Connecticut hospice providers, backed the change in regulations, arguing the more stringent standards were financially ruinous and not necessary to provide quality hospice care.
State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Orange, co-chairman of the Regulations Review Committee, said that for years, the hospice regulations focused only on a small, specialized hospital environment.
"Access was a big issue," Davis said Tuesday. "These new regulations will provide for greater access and a wider range for our in-patient type care." He said hospice services previously could be offered only in hospitals.
"There wasn't another type of facility other than a hospital environment for people who need hospice care to go into," Davis said. "This new regulation creates a small home environment-type in-patient hospice. If a family is caring for a loved one or a family is receiving hospice services at home and there may be a need for the individual receiving the service to go in for maybe just a few days of care, that's now available on a local basis."
Staff writer Ken Dixon contributed to this report.