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Haywood hospice center to become a reality

The first inpatient hospice west of Asheville had its groundbreaking in Clyde last week — complete with Jimmy Jack the mule and its own theme song.

The hospital is targeting September 2011 as the opening date for the Homestead hospice, to be located on the campus of Haywood Regional Medical Center. The new facility will house six beds for hospice patients, offering families with a dying loved one a choice in between hospitalization and in-home care.

Anyone who’s seen a loved one face a terminal illness can appreciate the hospice that’s to come, said N.C. Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva, who was at the ceremony.

“I can’t think of anything more stressful,” Haire said.

The second phase of the project will be the end-of-life outreach center, which will offer:

• private rooms for counseling services and bereavement therapy.

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• a reference library for resources related to terminal diseases and end-of-life issues.

• a community education center with multimedia capacity.

A courtyard will connect the two buildings. Memorial gardens will serve as a site for butterfly and dove releases.

The Homestead is expected to create 15 new permanent jobs, with an annual payroll of more than $500,000, along with dozens of short-term construction jobs.

An inpatient hospice center is also in the planning stages in Franklin. But as of now, families seeking that kind of setting must go to Asheville.

Mike Poore, CEO of MedWest — Haywood Regional Medical Center’s parent company — emphasized the significance of building a hospice like this closer to home.

“Having family close around is very important for patients,” said Poore. “We think this is really a sort of a new era for Haywood County.”

Poore added that the hospice is a testament to MedWest’s philosophy of keeping care in the community.

With more family members living far away from each other, Haire said hospice workers could also provide caring support to those who live far from their family.

“This is another way,” said Haire. “A lot of retired people don’t have support of families that live close.”

The $1 million difference

After several years of planning and fundraising, Haywood Regional Medical Center has raised $2.66 million of the $4.9 million needed for the Homestead hospice.

The effort got a major bump with a recent $1 million donation left in the will of Bernice “Bee” Medford, a long-time Haywood County benefactor who split her time between Maggie Valley and Sarasota, Fla.

“She loved this community,” said Bill Medford, her stepson. “She gave more to Haywood County than anybody in Florida.”

Medford said Bee would’ve been pleased to see her donation invested in the hospice.

Poore called Bee Medford a great friend to the hospital. “Her generosity will touch people’s lives well beyond her time,” said Poore.

Other contributions toward the hospice include $150,000 from The Duke Endowment and a $132,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Center.

State legislators Joe Sam Queen, Ray Rapp and Haire, who helped secure the grant money, all attended the groundbreaking on Friday.

“North Carolina is very proud of this project and what this community is doing,” said Queen.

The fundraising effort is still underway, and HRMC is still actively seeking grants and donations to finish the outreach center.

Call 828.452.8471 for more info.

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