VITAS Opens De Novo in San Antonio Region

Miami-headquartered hospice provider VITAS Healthcare has expanded its footprint in Texas with a new location in San Marcos, just outside of San Antonio. VITAS is a subsidiary of Chemed Corp. (NYSE: CHE).

VITAS operates 48 hospice programs in 14 states, with a total average daily census of 19,137 as of the end of the third quarter 2018. The company’s Texas operations serve 16 counties and maintains an inpatient unit at the Methodist Healthcare System in San Antonio.

“Greater San Antonio continues to be one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, and when cities experience that kind of consistent growth, health care providers must be prepared to care for the needs of their population,” Joseph Brickner, general manager of VITAS Healthcare in San Antonio, told Hospice News. “The demands of this growing city, and the trust we earned from the health care community over the past 25 years to provide high-quality hospice services, are some of the reasons why VITAS expanded its presence in the Greater San Antonio area by opening its new office in San Marcos. Our new footprint allows us to expand our care into communities north of San Antonio, including residents in Fredericksburg and Austin.”

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Services available at the San Marcos location include a massage program called Lavender Touch; music therapy; pet therapy; a Life Bio program in which volunteers develop a written, audio or video biography of the patient, as well as veterans’ programs.

Demographic tailwinds are a significant driver of hospice providers’ interest in Texas. The Lone Star State has the third-largest elderly population in the nation, according to the Texas Demographic Center, a state institution. The number of Texans 65 or older grew by 49.5% between 2000 and 2014. Only California experienced a higher rate of increase among its senior population.

Texas is 13th among the states in hospice utilization. In 2017, 52.1% of Medicare-enrolled decedents elected hospice according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. Utilization is highest in Utah at 59.1%. The national rate was 50% for 2018.

Organic growth is a cornerstone of VITAS’ strategy to expand its footprint in markets nationwide.

“Strategically going forward we are going to continue growing our business organically, like we have been. Organic growth has been our primary growth engine since I took over [as senior vice president of operations] in 2012,” VITAS CEO Nick Westfall told Hospice News last Fall. “Our strategy is still built on that combination of core hospice business organic growth, de novo activity would be the next pillar, and then opportunistic acquisitions that are at appropriate multiples. That’s our hospice growth engine.”

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