Hospice campaign argues against more end-of-life providers in Lake, Sumter counties
Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care appears to be orchestrating a letter-writing campaign to convince state officials that more end-of-life providers are not needed in Lake and Sumter counties.
Hospice officials, however, disagree with that assessment.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) publishes projections for future needs for medical services. It contends the number of projected deaths will soon exceed the number of projected hospice admissions in Lake and Sumter counties, resulting in at least a half-dozen companies quickly filing letters of intent to offer those expanded hospice services here.
This is part of the state's Certificate of Need program, a regulatory process that requires health care providers to obtain state approval before offering certain new or expanded services.
Cornerstone, the sole hospice provider here, recently sent out a letter to its supporters, urging them to write letters to the AHCA, "formally stating your support for Cornerstone." A text sample was provided as a guide for the letter writers, with the concluding sentence of that text block stating, "From our experience, we do not see an unmet need for hospice services in our community."
The letter, from hospice President and CEO Mary Manrique, said respondents should use the text block as a guide only "and use your own words when writing the letter on your own letterhead," supposedly so it wouldn't look like an organized mass mailing.
Cornerstone officials on Friday said the letter was not meant to direct its supporters -- which include physicians, hospitals, clergy and volunteers -- to shun competition or maintain a monopoly here. They said they know competition is "inevitable and a fact of life."
"It was sent to the community to let them know that other hospices will be contacting them and asking for their support," Manrique said. "We wanted to ensure everyone in the community that Cornerstone Hospice will still be providing the comprehensive care that we have always provided and we are not going anywhere, but there will be another hospice knocking on their door for support."
Hospice Community Relations Manager Julia Allen said the letter was meant to answer questions concerning the role Cornerstone will play with a new end-of-life provider coming to the area. She said the intent wasn't to get a leg up on the competition, but to let supporters know Cornerstone will continue to service the community.
"Many people in the community have questioned why there is a need to have another hospice," she said.
Filing letters of intent to offer expanded hospice services here are:
Clermont-based Passages Hospice of Central Florida Inc.
Coral Gables-based Harbor Light Hospice of Florida Inc.
Miami-based VISTA Healthcare Corporation of America.
Ocala-based Hospice of Marion County Inc.
Passages Hospice of Central Florida Inc., represented by Arthur Shataynberg of LicensePro LLC, Brooklyn, NY.
Hernando-Pasco Hospice Inc., represented by The Girvin Group of Tallahassee.
Compassionate Care Hospice of Lake and Sumter Inc., represented by Smith & Associates, a Tallahassee law firm.
The state will make a final decision on Aug. 17, although hospice officials said that could be delayed if appeals are filed.