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After years of planning, Hospice Maui gets set to bless first inpatient facility

A place to make last days comfortable

Hospice Maui Hale, an inpatient hospice care facility, will hold its grand opening and blessing from 7:15 to 9 a.m. Thursday. The event is open to the public. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

WAILUKU — Workers and volunteers were in full force Tuesday afternoon preparing for Thursday’s grand opening of the long-awaited Hospice Maui Hale, which will provide comfort and spiritual support for patients in their last days.

The five-bedroom, 4,500-square-foot facility expects to welcome its first patients Monday.

“We’re really grateful for the support from the Maui community to bringing this to fruition,” Hospice Maui Executive Director Dr. Greg LaGoy said.

The blessing and grand opening are scheduled for 7:15 to 9 a.m. Parking will be available at the War Memorial Stadium parking lot with a shuttle service to the facility at the top of Mahalani Street.

The $1.5 million Hospice Maui Hale features a kitchen, a living and dining room, and laundry and storage rooms. The building boasts seven bathrooms, including three private bathrooms that open into a small enclosed outdoor area with flowers and greenery that add a “sense of beauty,” LaGoy said.

Hospice Maui Executive Director Dr. Greg LaGoy (right) reviews plans with general contractor Elias Akinaka of Akinaka Construction on Tuesday afternoon inside the nonprofit’s new care facility. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Flowers, chairs, paintings, beds and other items were being placed inside the facility Tuesday to beautify the facility before the opening. Plumbing, electrical and other utilities also were being installed.

Hospice Maui started as a grass-roots hospice care program in 1978 and incorporated in 1981. The nonprofit agency currently cares for 70 patients and mostly serves them in their homes, but sometimes in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Hospice Maui Hale will be the organization’s first inpatient care facility.

Hospice Maui saw an increasing need for its services and obtained a certificate of need to build an inpatient facility in 2007. Fund raising for the building, however, stalled due to the Great Recession and the project was put on hold.

“We had only just begun,” when the funding dried up due to the tough economic times, LaGoy said.

Volunteer Bonnie Gott helps unload flowers Tuesday afternoon in preparation for Thursday’s grand opening and blessing of Hospice Maui Hale in Wailuku. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Funding-raising efforts were restarted in 2011, but unexpected permitting requirements delayed the project on 4 acres leased from the county, though only 1¢ acres are usable due to the sloping parcel at the top of a dune. The leasing arrangement required an environmental assessment, which “took a tremendous amount of extra time,” LaGoy said. There also were permitting delays while trying to connect to the county sewer system, which consumed a year.

Hospice Maui had originally planned to build a 12-bed facility, but changes in hospice care eligibility requirements by Medicare, its main insurer, forced the organization to downsize to five bedrooms, LaGoy said. Medicare began enforcing the change in 2011.

The change in plans opened the door for another nonprofit organization, Islands Hospice headquartered in Oklahoma, to establish a facility with seven beds. The inpatient hospice facility in a former Kahului home opened in 2015, despite a legal challenge by Hospice Maui.

“We realized that it could be too expensive to run (a 12-bed facility) so we decided to go to a five-bed,” LaGoy said, adding that the plan was then to “add additional five-bed hospice houses in different parts of the island as we needed.”

Hospices appear to be serving a growing need in the community because most people do not want to spend their last days in a hospital or nursing home, LaGoy said.

“Sometimes going home isn’t possible,” he said. “Reasons include symptoms that are too difficult to be controlled in a home setting without doctors or nurses nearby; the caregiving family members in the home are not up to the task or there aren’t family members in the home and they live alone; or they don’t have an adequate home setting, like those who live in their car.”

The nonprofit organization has hired 10 extra staff to help run the facility, which requires a registered nurse and nurses aid on-site at all times. A couple of patients already are lined up to move into the facility Monday, LaGoy said.

“It’s only for the very sickest,” he said. “Oftentimes, this would be where people will spend time who might otherwise die at the hospital.”

A typical patient will stay between five to 10 days, LaGoy said.

For many patients, the costs will be covered by medical insurance. Some insurers may not cover the cost of the room, and Hospice Maui plans to charge $375 a day in those cases, LaGoy said.

The Hospice Maui Kokua Fund has been established to receive donations from the community that will be used to cover the costs of those who cannot afford hospice services, he added.

A major difference between hospital care and hospice care is the spiritual component, LaGoy said. In a hospital, spiritual support is handled only by trained staff or chaplains. All staff at the hospice are equipped and trained to provide support for patients.

“Every nurse, every social worker and every doctor are well trained to be comfortable having conversations with people, families and patients who are very ill,” he said. “In most health care settings, those conversations are only reserved for certain people and other people don’t want to have those conversations.”

LaGoy believes there will be an increasing demand for hospice services on the island, and the agency’s long-term plans include opening more residences across the island. However, he would like to wait and see how operations go with the first building before thinking about expansion.

“Once people begin using this and seeing the value of it, then we’ll be able to better gauge the demand for the next expansion into residential services,” he said.

For more information, visit hospicemaui.org or call 244-5555.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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