Ascend Hospice, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Ascend Health, is entering the Puerto Rico market through the acquisition of Grace Hospice, which has operations across the island of Puerto Rico, for an undisclosed sum.
The business will operate under its new name, Grace Hospice Puerto Rico, and will provide hospice care to those with terminal diagnoses and palliative care to those suffering chronic pain.
“We saw that there is an incredible need for health services on the island. We all became very aware of the need for increased services post Hurricane Maria,” Pat Chiorello, vice president of communications for Ascend Health, told Hospice News. “The need was there prior to Maria and everything got exacerbated after the storm. We know many physicians have left the island, and there is a great need for increased services.”
The senior population in the U.S. commonwealth has been rising steadily, with the number of individuals older than 60 rising by 250,000 people between 2010 and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Grace Hospice footprint allows Ascend to reach patients in every corner of the island. Post hurricane conditions have improved since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, allowing services to support day-to-day living to resume, but many people continue to struggle with gaining access to health care and getting to hospitals, according to Chiorello.
“Communities are still not what they were prior to the hurricane,” she said. “Our intention is to cover the entire island, so that anyone who is in need of patient-centered hospice services will have those available to them. Puerto Rico is composed of really tight-knit communities who really care for their own. We believe this acquisition was a perfect match for us.”
Most of the Grace Hospice staff is remaining with the company under Ascend’s management, who will continue efforts to recruit new clinical and support staff as the gain scale on the island. Ascend plans to augment Grace’s current service lines with disease-specific specialty programs designed to care for patients with a cancer diagnosis or heart disease, as well as programs specific to veterans. Grace will also begin offering ancillary services such as aromatherapy and touch therapy.
“A lot of people, especially seniors, sometimes they lose that connection of being touched, which can be a tremendous source of comfort and relief,” Chiorello said. “In addition to having companions who can speak with and reassure patients, touch can establish a very meaningful connection.”
In addition to its new Puerto Rico holdings, Ascend Hospice has locations in seven states. Its parent company, Ascend Health, also operates home health and personal care subsidiaries called Ascend Home Health and Ascend Concierge Home Care, respectively.